The January issue of ShopSmart mag, a shopper-friendly publication put out by Consumer Reports, shares places to find cheap music to download and stream (which is playing music online without downloading it). I’ve summarized the best nine sources of cheap music below, in no particular order.
Amazon.com – MP3 music downloads come cheap at Amazon if you pay attention to the deals. Individual tracks cost $.69, $.99, or $1.29 each and albums are about $8. But everyday the site offers one free MP3 and has at least 100 albums for $5 each month (there are 1,000 albums for $5 in January). Daily album sales bring the price down to $4.
iTunes – Individual tracks are the same price as on Amazon, but most albums cost a little more, about $10. The site has cool music sharing features so you can check what friends are listening to. Use free HomePipe software if you don’t have a Mac or iPod to play iTunes music on non-Apple devices.
Pandora.com, Last.fm, and Slacker.com – Stream music for free on these Internet radio sites. Or pay a few a few bucks a month for extra features, like no ads, higher quality sound, and the ability to create playlists. I use the free Pandora service and like that I can type in the name of a band or artist and Pandora plays music similar to that style and genre. If you haven’t tried it, you really should.
MOG – Get unlimited mobile downloads for $10 per month on MOG, or pay $5 for custom radio service through an Internet browser. Why would you pay $5 a month when you can listen for free on Pandora? MOG has more advanced options to customize your music stream, including repeating songs, jumping ahead to songs, and increasing or decreasing the variety of music.
Rdio – Web access to music is $5 per month or pay $10 a month for unlimited access to your computer and your mobile devices. Downloads are $.99 to $1.30. Features include being able to follow the playlists of your friends and top Rdio users, called tastemakers.
Rhapsody – One of the most expensive plans ShopSmart covered, Rhapsody is $10 a month to stream music on as many PCs and TVs, plus one mobile device. Pay $10 a month to download music to up to three mobile devices, though you can only play music on one at a time.
Walmart – Songs cost $.64, $.94, or $1.24, but you’ll be charged a $5 fee to designate a credit card to pay for downloads. The site excludes music with explicit lyrics and does not allow streaming, only the purchase of music.
Coming soon?! Google Audio – Word in cyberspace is that Google is launching a new music service. But delays have pushed off the launch. Its unclear if the service will be entirely free, offer streaming, or MP3 downloads.