I think the need for music and rhythm is one of the most basic human needs; and as we evolve, so evolve our ways of hunting and gathering this precious commodity.
In this post, I've gathered 10 great places to expand your musical horizons: free, legal ways to discover music online, which work everywhere (not only in the US or in Europe)!
Not all of the sites below actually let you listen to music – they are not all players; but they can all help you find the next big thing, or just a tune to groove to.
Let's get started!
Uvumi is one of my favorite players in this space. You probably won't find much music you already know there; it's a community for budding artists, which lets them put their music online, be discovered and get direct feedback from their listeners.
I've covered Uvumi in detail, but if I had to sum it up in brief, I'd have to say that what impressed me most about the site is how well-managed it is. Marshall (the guy behind the site) seems to be taking both the listeners and the artists really seriously, and there's a true sense of community once you get into it.
When was the last time you listened to some music on YouTube? Probably sometime today or yesterday, right? It's something most of us do on a routine basis, and there's a whole cottage industry of mashups which use YouTube as a music repository and dish out recommendations.
And then there's Youtube's own Music Discovery Project. It's pretty much what you would expect, and it's certainly worth knowing about.
To see eight other ways to find and listen to music online (and a bonus mention!), keep on reading after the fold.
Bandcamp seems to be geared more towards the artists than the listeners, but it's still awesome. It is meant to be used as a "band homepage", and lets artists showcase their work and sell (or give away) their music using a very slick, sophisticated interface.
One recent addition to Bandcamp is the tags page, which lets you browse music by genre or physical location (in case you'd like to see the band live).
The Hype Machine
The blogosphere remains one of the most prodigious sources for music recommendations. After all, people like talking about music. There seems to be an endless amount of music blogs, both large and small, and some also embed single tracks along with their reviews.
The Hype Machine takes a large chunk of this teeming community and aggregates it into its own interface, letting you see who's talking about what, and most importantly you can listen to audio tracks right on the site.
Grooveshark is my go-to service when I just want to find one song and check it out with minimum fuss. When someone mentions a track which sounds interesting, I just fire up Grooveshark, search for it, and hit Play. Of course, that's just one way to use this incredible service.
We've somehow never covered Deezer before, which really should be remedied. Deezer is based in France, but the interface is available in English, Italian, German and Spanish as well. It's similar to Grooveshark in that it is a Flash application which lets you quickly find the music you're interested in, and they also have a Radio feature.
Selection seems to be smaller than Grooveshark, though; in searching for some Ben Folds tracks, all I found was weird karaoke mixes and some MIDI files (!).
MusicoveryMusicovery presents an interesting tradeoff. The interface is really nice, but the sound quality is horrible (at least for the free service). While they claim paid subscribers get to enjoy "Hi-Fi" quality, I was unable to test this. What I could test was an interesting, if somewhat crippled way, to discover music using a canvas of associations, and an intuitive way to specify what you're looking for.
You dial in a genre, and then specify how upbeat or mellow you want your tunes to be, and Musicovery then dishes out surprisngly accurate results. But if you're serious about using this service, you should really go for the Pro option – their free service is kind of bare-bones.
Mufin is actually one of the most amazing services on this list; I just discovered it now myself while researching for this feature, and it is simply awesome.
While the web service seems a tad generic (how unique can you be in this space, after all?), their desktop player is amazing. I'm strictly a Foobar2000 guy, for years now, but this player is good enough to make me think of switching.
It takes your music library and neatly catalogs, and lets you easily find similar tracks and email tracks (or actually, links to those tracks on Mufin's site) to your friends. It's an incredible memory hog (271MB on my system, holy cow!) but it's simple, fast and responsive.
They also have a Pro version which seems quite interesting. It has a feature which displays your entire music library as an animated cloud of tracks, which you slice and dice on-the-fly to find just the music you want. There's no trial available for the Pro version, but I have contacted Mufin to see if they'd be interested in a review. If they are, we might just do a giveaway, too.
... this is definitely one to wait for!
It seems like Allmusic has been around forever. This is actually one of the first music discovery services I have ever found online, and it's been going strong for years.
Allmusic features a mind-boggling mass of detailed artist and album reviews, painstakingly cataloged by mood, genre, style, theme, running time, and more. The reviews are long and comprehensive.
While you won't find full tracks on Allmusic, you can listen to short snippets. It's mainly a great way to discover artists somehow related or similar to artists you already know, so you could then go and hunt down their music via other means (or buy it on Amazon via Allmusic).
Remember Muxtape? Back when the service started, it was about free-for-all playlist sharing. Of course, the big labels would have none of that, and gave the service quite a thrashing.
Muxtape then went on hiatus, and came back as a service aimed at indie musicians and smaller bands who wish to share their music with the world. It's kind of like Bandcamp with an added dose of hipster-juice. Muxtape's player remains one of the most innovative and simple online players I've ever seen.
Now that you've found all of this music online, you may want a nice way to catalog it. ExtensionFM may just be that way. While it won't work with all of the services above, it's a great match for The Hype Machine, and might also work with Bandcamp (tell me in the comments if it does). I recommend you read Lee's detailed review, but in a nutshell I can tell you it's a Chrome add-on which automatically collects and catalogs all of the music you find online, and does it very nicely.
p.s – in case you're wondering why I never mentioned Last.fm, it's because just about everybody knows about it, and because it's just not that good anymore now that it's so restricted (in my opinion).
Got another site or tool you use to discover awesome, new music online? Let's hear about it in the comments!