When was the last time you listened to over-the-air FM radio? There are so many options on the internet for listening to thousands of different radio stations in many different genres and for downloading a lot of music for free.
We’ve collected some of the best websites for listening to internet radio and for downloading and streaming free music.
There are many sites that offer many radio stations from which you can pick, in all kinds of different genres. Some are completely free and some have both free and paid options.
Pandora allows you to enter the name of a song, artist, or genre you like and the Music Genome Project scans its entire database of music that has been analyzed using up to 450 distinct musical characteristics by a trained music analyst. Songs with interesting musical similarities to the song, artist, or genre you entered are presented to you, allowing you to discover new music that fits in with your musical preferences and moods. Pandora also offers comedy and allows you to create up to 100 unique “stations” that you can refine over time.
The free version of Pandora is ad-supported. If you would prefer to listen to radio without audio or visual ads, you can sign up for Pandora One ($36 per year or $3.99 for one month) to enjoy your music without ads. Pandora One also allows you to listen for up to five hours in a row without having to interact with Pandora at all. When you do interact with Pandora, the timer is reset.
Last.fm is a music recommendation service. Sign up and download their software, The Scrobbler, which helps you discover other music based on the type of music you choose to play. The Scrobbler updates your library with music you’ve been listening to on your computer, phone, or music player and tells Last.fm what songs you like most, which ones you play most, how often you play a specific artist, as well as other information that helps them personalized recommendations just for you.
You can also download free MP3 files from Last.fm and get involved in the Last.fm community where you discuss music you love with other Last.fm listeners, tag tracks, and learn what’s new and hot. Last.fm is also available for iPhone and Android devices.
Screamer Radio is a freeware program that allows you to download and listen to any of over 4000 regional and internet radio stations. The software contains a large database of radio stations and you can record what you’re listening to. It’s ad-free and they claim it has no spyware. You can keep the program out of the way by hiding it in the system tray. Screamer Radio is also available in a portable version. See our review about playing and recording internet radio with Screamer Radio.
Playlist.com offers millions of songs from which you can create millions of different playlists. Discover new music and connect with like-minded listeners and friends to see what they listen to and share your playlists with them.
SHOUTcast Radio Directory
SHOUTcast Radio is a directory listing over 45,000 music, talk, sports, and community radio stations from the U.S. and around the world. You can listen to a station while still exploring other stations. The stations are organized into categories to make it easy to find the style of music you like, and you can also search for your favorite songs and artists playing across the network of stations.
Slacker Personal Radio
Slacker Personal Radio allows you to listen to personalized, custom music, news, sports, and comedy stations for free and listen everywhere. The stations are programmed by DJs that are experts in their specific genres. Their knowledge and your own personal taste are used to create radio stations that are perfectly customized for you.
You can also subscribe to Slacker at two different levels: Slacker Radio Plus ($3.99/month) and Slacker Premium Radio ($9.99/month). They offer extra features such as no ads, the ability to cache stations on your mobile phone’s memory card, and unlimited song skips. The Premium service allows you to plays songs and albums on demand, cache albums and playlists as well as stations, and create your own playlists.
Live365 offers a wide-reaching radio network of high-quality, streaming music, talk, and audio in more than 260 genres. The Live365 radio network streams music from artists like Pat Metheny, Johnny Cash, and Carlos Santana. They also offer access to public radio stations and stations programmed in many different styles by individual DJs. Live365 allows individual artists and organizations an easy platform for promoting their music and creating their own internet radio stations.
You can become a VIP listener to have access to additional features, such as commercial-free music and the ability to listen to Live365 from compatible mobile devices. You have a choice of a 3-month subscription ($7.95/month paid every 3 months), a 6-month subscription ($6.95/month paid every 6 months), or a 1-year subscription ($5.95/month paid yearly). Part of the subscription fee you pay gets paid out as royalties to the artists whose music is played on Live365.
SKY.fm is a multi-channel internet radio service that offers streaming music in over 50 different genres. You can listen for free or upgrade to SKY.fm Premium for high-quality audio streams, completely commercial-free music, and the ability to listen in multiple software programs on your PC, in your browser, and on your mobile device.
Streema offers a radio directory of over 20,000 stations in every music genre from around the world. The directory is ranked by popularity, so you can easily see what stations are the most popular among the Streema listeners. Use a web interface to find your favorite radio stations and the top new songs and playlists. Once you sign up for free, you can create a list of your favorite radio stations, invite some friends, and discover new music. As of the writing of this article, Streema claims that mobile apps are coming soon so you’ll be able to stream music from their site on your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android, BlackBerry, among other mobile phones.
Spotify offers legal, free access to a large library of music you can listen to on your computer, iPhone, and iPad using their downloadable streaming music player. Sign up for a free account, login, listen to millions of tracks, and save the songs you love to your Spotify playlists.
Even with access to millions of tracks, you may get tired of listening to your favorite bands over and over again. Spotify’s recommendation engine can help you find other artists similar to what you’ve been listening to or to suit a specific mood. Their Related artist feature is another way to discover artists you just might love. When listening to one of the top artists on Spotify, you’ll see a list of artists that other fans of the current artist listen to on the Related artists tab. You might just find your new favorite band.
Spotify is free, but there are also paid subscriptions options: Unlimited ($4.99/month) and Premium ($9.99/month). Both subscriptions options offer ad-free listening and the Premium option also offers an offline mode for your desktop and mobile phone, the ability to stream millions of tracks from the Spotify library as well as radio, and enhanced sound quality.
Jango is an internet radio site that allows you to create and share custom radio stations based on artists or genres. Search for an artist or select a genre and your station begins to play right away. You not only get the music you like but also similar favorites of other Jango listeners who share your taste. Customize your stations by adding more artists and rate the songs, indicating which ones you want to play more often than others.
Share your stations with other Jango listeners and tune in to other people’s stations.
Radio Tuna is a real-time search engine for online radio that profiles stations based on the music they actually play and not only say they play. The data from thousands of streaming stations is processed in real time. Two databases, created by thousands of individuals contributing for free through Musicbrainz and Discogs, contain data used to work out what is being played on every stream found. Use Radio Tuna to spend more time listening to your favorite music and less time searching for it.
Grooveshark is a large, on-demand music streaming and discover service used by 30 million people. Listen to your favorite music, create your own playlists, discover new music. Share your music and discoveries with your friends through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. You can also upgrade to Grooveshark Plus ($6.00/month) so you can listen ad-free or to Grooveshark Anywhere ($9.00/month) so you can take Grooveshark with you on your phone and other mobile devices.
SomaFM is a listener-supported, commercial-free internet-only radio station that gets over 5.8 million “listener hours” a month. Their goal is to expose their listeners to great new music not found on commercial radio.
Artist Radio Online
Artist Radio Online allows you to listen to free internet radio stations designed and DJ’d by your favorite artists. The stations play directly in your browser; you do not need to download any software. Listen to free streaming music for as long as you want.
Jelli is an online streaming radio service that allows its community of listeners to determine what gets played. Interact with the live radio broadcast to decide what plays. Check out the Jelli stations, choose one, and tune in. Listen to what’s playing and voice your opinion real-time about the current song by hitting Rock if you like it or Sucks if you don’t. If enough people say a song Sucks, it gets pulled off the air.
Radio? Sure! is an application that allows you to listen to any of over 17,000 online radio stations and easily record multiple stations simultaneously (up to two at a time in the free version) and package them into separate song files. The software automatically checks for updates to the software itself and to the radio stations and supports most of the internet radio formats.
A Pro version of the software is available for $9.99 ($7.99 until the end of July 2012) that provides additional features such as the ability to record up to 10 stations simultaneously, automatic updating of the stations database daily (rather than every seven days), the ability to block the recording of ads, and record full songs from the very beginning.
Downloadable and Streaming Music
If you prefer to select specific tracks to stream or to download separate music tracks and listen to them offline, here are some websites offering free music files.
Free Music Archive
The Free Music Archive (FMA) is an interactive library of high-quality, free, legal audio downloads. The FMA library is freely available to the public. You do not have to register to download music, but, if you do, you can create your own playlists to keep track of music you discover and participate in discussions.
You can also use the music on FMA in podcasts, videos, or other forms of digital publishing.
Amazon Free MP3 Songs and Extras
You may not have realized, but you can even find free MP3 files for download on Amazon. They have over 1,000 tracks available for free in such genres as Rock, Alternative Rock, Classical, and Pop.
NOTE: The free MP3 files available on Amazon are only for U.S. residents with a U.S. Amazon account.
Google Play Free Music
Google Play also offers free MP3 songs, featuring new free tracks every day. Add them to your Google Play library so you can instantly access them from any web browser or your mobile device.
Music Oasis is a software program that provides access to a library of high-quality, non-DRM, MP3 files for you to stream or download for use with any music player. Music Oasis is completely free and there are no restrictions when downloading or streaming music from their library.
However, Music Oasis is ad-supported. During the installation of Music Oasis, you are offered additional software from their partners. These offers are free to download and are 100% optional.
BearShare is a website that allows you to download over 15 million songs and videos, legally and for free. Use their software to download music and video from other peers for free or to buy songs not available for free. BearShare offers some premium content only available if you subscribe to BearShare Premium. In addition, the BearShare ToGo subscription allows you to transfer BearShare music to your compatible MP3 player on an unlimited basis.
You must register to use BearShare, but it’s free and allows you to access to millions of songs to download, use state of the art search tools and other features such as the ability to browse the enormous library by different genres, artists, moods and more so you can discover new music. Each artist’s page provides details about the artist and a discography you can download.
iMesh is a file sharing software program that gives you free and legal access to over 15 million songs and videos. Sync your music with your iPod, listen to a personalized DJ station of your favorite artists, or discover playlists and albums for new artists.
SoundClick is a free music community featuring signed and unsigned bands and state of the art social media tools. They offer free member profile pages, mp3 downloads, streaming audio and video, music charts, custom radio stations, a proprietary music store, message boards, and more.
More than 60,000 new songs and more than 6,000 new bands are approved every month. That makes it easy to find tons of great full-length songs and bands. All songs on SoundClick are available in streaming audio in up to near CD quality and most of the songs are also available as free, legal MP3 downloads.
If you have so much music that you store it on an external drive and don’t get around to listening to it much, Mufin Player may be what you need. “Mufin” stands for music finder. Mufin Player contains a music discovery engine that analyzes your music collection and allows you to sort and explore your music by sound. You may rediscover music you forgot you had and you can enjoy it all over again.
You can also sign up for Mufin Player Pro, which provides space in the cloud (mufin.drive) to store your music, in addition to other features. Mufin Player for Android is included in Mufin Player Pro, allowing you to manage the music on your phone as well as download your music stored on your mufin.drive to your phone.
We can’t mention every site on the music site web, but here are some additional sites for listening to internet radio, streaming music, and discovering new music:
- ListenMusic.fm– Search for favorite artists or for playlists based on your mood.
- StereoMood– Listen to playlists based on your mood.
- Shuffler.fm– Listen to a dynamic free internet radio service that streams the content from music blogs around the web.
- Mugasha– Use Mugasha at your party to play cool electronic music sets from DJs around the world.
- TheRadio– Select from a large collection of radio stations from around the world.
- Musopen – Listen to an online music library of copyright-free (public domain) classical music.
If you’ve found a great source of internet radio or downloadable music we’ve not listed here, let us know.
Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.
- Published 07/28/12