Free Music on your Mac, iPhone or iPod Touch at Home, in the Car or at the Office!

If you love music and use it to help achieve relaxation and a sense of tranquility at home, in your car or at your workplace, then providing musical content that is both inexpensive and with limited or, better still, nonexistent irritating advertisements is a priority. This would eliminate traditional AM/ FM and satellite radio options and positions your Mac, iPhone or iPod Touch in the forefront of this challenge. There are numerous choices at your disposal via exciting, even a few free, digital services!

Years ago a CD player and FM radio were the tools I used to listen to music. Compact Discs are still available today and if you run out to Best Buy and purchase new ones regularly, you probably have too much time on your hands.

This modality of acquiring new music has slowly become outdated and it does not constitute an efficient solution anymore.

AM and FM radio can spring to life and begin broadcasting a variety of free music in most settings. However, “free” music is not without a price.

Listening to advertisements soon became more common than enjoying great music and it became a deterrent to achieving an ambiance meant to foster relaxation.

About four years ago, satellite radio seemed to be a great solution by offering diverse, ad-free music and premium audio entertainment stations. The costs associated with enjoying satellite radio include purchasing a special receiver for $120 and paying a monthly fee of approximately $13 per month.

Today, Sirius/XM Radio may be headed for rough seas ahead as other alternatives, such as iTunes and multiple internet radio services, offer similar or even superior services at a lower price point.

So here we are today, February 2009, and traditional AM and FM radio has never been more cluttered with DJ talk and advertisements.

Satellite radio companies XM and Sirius merged and began delivering ads while continuing to charge the same monthly fee to access their programming.

Digital delivery of music has become the standard as evidenced by iPod sales and iTunes’s dominant position in respect of music sales.

Internet radio via iTunes,, Slacker and Pandora have gained popularity and traction over traditional radio because of a better listener experience, enhanced through customizability, that delivers targeted desirable content and greatly reduced involvement from advertisers.

This last feature is the most attractive, since advertisers tend to ruin, in my opinion, the overall music listening experience.

After continuing to pay a monthly fee for satellite radio, I became bothered by two glaring issues.

1. Satellite radio has had daily and frequent signal loss (presumably related to when the satellite traverses The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd; just kidding), resulting in “dead space” without any sound broadcast, which breaks up song continuity.

2.  An increasing number of satellite radio stations began airing ads. The promise of “commercial-free” and the receipt of “nearly commercial free,” while charging the same amount for the service made my blood boil, especially when I realized that I could use my iTunes library or even internet radio at a dramatically reduced rate to listen to “commercial-free” music at home, in my car or at the office.

So what’s the solution?

As I stated above, there are a plethora of choices available and it all depends on your specific needs and wants.

iTunes will be able to serve up your transferred (from CDs and digital files) and purchased digital music (now sans DRM), and iTunes also offers radio stations that can be streamed through your Mac.

Your iTunes library can also be enjoyed on your AppleTV, iPhone and iPod.

Pandora, Slacker and are but a few internet radio webcasting services that customize the selection of songs depending on your preferences, which are determined through your interactions with those respective services.

They can introduce you to new music to which you might not have otherwise been exposed . They offer free services or for a small monthly fee they offer additional features and no advertising.

The music can be streamed through most web browsers, desktop clients or dedicated iPhone/ iPod Touch applications available through the App Store.

You can listen to your tracks through your entertainment or sound system from your AppleTV or Mac at home or at work. If your Mac does not have digital audio output, I suggest the iMic USB audio interface by Griffin to achieve this objective. You can also listen to your favorite iPhone or iPod selections, in your car even if an iPhone or iPod dock hasn’t been installed.

Interestingly, XM and Sirius radio also offer online listening –  still relatively pricey—but no extra hardware, other than your computer, is needed.

Once automobiles and other devices become equipped to tap into the ubiquitous wireless internet, traditional and satellite radio influence will continue to erode, even as the major record labels will fight tooth and nail to protect their profits based on outdated business models.

Just as the iTunes store changed the way people purchase and consume media, the internet radio webcasting services will also change radio as we know it today.

How they will do so is unclear, and perhaps it will create another venue to introduce vast amounts of listeners to new and/or independent music artists and labels.

Or perhaps it will ultimately fail at the hands of the entrenched and wealthy major music labels that used a once novel device now known as the traditional radio to woo listeners into buying the latest albums that they were trying to sell, ironic-no?

Whatever the outcome, technology has a way of identifying and clearing out the obsolete to usher in change, which is inevitable. Hopefully, continued nurturing of these new technologies will allow us to enjoy music and reward talented artists in a mutually beneficial manner without third parties looking to profiteer at everyone else’s expense.

I use my Mac and iPhone to change the way I do things – for the better. What do you think? What other ways do you enjoy music?

**Note: Please review licensing details for each service you wish to use to be sure you are in compliance with their respective terms of service.

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