Frugal Tech: Free Streaming Music (finally for Canadians)

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By Ed 


Did you know you can stream free music online?

At the risk of offending US and international readers, this post will be pretty specific to Canada.  And please, American Cousins, don't be put off.  When it comes to free music online, you folks wade around in an embarrassment of riches.  Pandora and Last.fm are incredible.  If you haven't checked them out, now's the time.  (I'll show you shortly what we, in Canada, get when we go to their sites.)

Finally, there's a new solution for the Great (Locked-Out) North: CBC Music!

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has streamed station broadcasts and music online for years.  The best part of the site (for music geeks) has been CBCRadio3.  It used to be a stand alone, online-only portal for new and independent music.  You could create an account and playlist for stuff you liked.  They podcasted a bit.  It turns out Radio3 was a beta-lab for a big roll out of CBC Music which happened this spring.  CBCMusic is Radio3 all grown up.

Available as a website and an Apple App (with Android and Blackberry Apps coming soon) you can stream commercial-free music channels.  All are free (both apps, channels and creating an account) for Canadians and are unlimited.

There are many genres to choose from ranging from: 
  • Classical 
  • Jazz
  • World Music
  • 50's and 60's Jukebox Classics 
  • cutting edge Alternative and more.  

My favourite (inexplicably buried in the Singer-Songwriter category) is Adult Alternative, but when I need a laugh, the 90's channel has been fun.  (When was the last time you heard "Return of the Mack" or any TLC?  That recently?  You love them?  Sorry.  No offense intended.  They're great).

Pick a tasteful channel, or the 90's one and get the party started.

Use it for you next Party

Need background music for a party and don't want to have to keep changing CDs, worrying that your random shuffle will choose embarrassing music or keeping to one genre?

Plug your iPod/iPad or computer into a line-in jack on your stereo and load up the CBC Music App.  

Pick a tasteful channel and forget about it.  Or change the channels as your day evolves - 90's or Pop 40 while vacuuming the house for guests, Jazz while cooking, Classical for Dinner background, a Rock station later and something mellow to end the night. 

I have never been to such a party, much less hosted one, but doesn't it sound fun?

You could also use your computer and an FM transmitter and really spread the music joy

Build Your Own Playlists

Finally, if commercial-free, multi-genre music channels aren't enough for you, create a login and browse the CBC music library of artists and build your own playlists.  They have many, many Canadian artists (including mainstreamers Sarah McLachlan, Doc Walker, Feist, Corb Lund, K'naan and The Tragically Hip).  And take them with you - login at work or school, iPod stream on your local Library's Wi-Fi while you read; as long as you have internet access, you'll have free music that you want to listen to.

So why do Canadians need CBC music?  



Here is what Pandora gives Canadian users upon arrival:

It wasn't always like that.  I visited Pandora - basically a music box where you can listen to anything, by anyone, ever and get suggestions based on your listening preferences- a few times before it got canned in Canada.  If you liked music, you could get lost for hours playing Six-Degrees-of-Artist-Separation with bands you liked and new ones you hadn't heard of, but matched your preferences.

Then it was gone.

Last FM

Last.FM held similar promise.  I got my free trial account squared away and then realized:  Why do they call it a Free-Trial Account?  Some digging told me that US, UK and German listeners where the only ones who got a full-free version, and for the rest of us it cost $3 a month.  Not that steep, but not frugal either, especially if you read the fine print in the FAQ:

Not a great deal at any price.

So check it out and tell me what you think.  Better yet, tell CBC.  Even if you aren't a fan of normal CBC talk-radio, as long as you like music of some sort, you will probably find something you like here.  



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