Online music with no money down

I love free samples. I never pass up the tortilla chips with salsa or the Dixie cups of “fresh squeezed” orange juice from concentrate handed out by sweetly smiling senior citizens at the Megalomart. When I surf the Net at home, or at work when the boss is distracted, I am no more able to resist a freebie.

Every day, I get my free hour of music from Musicmatch Jukebox. I type in Brian Eno and hit “play related artists.” For the next 60 minutes, the site plays me Eno, Radiohead, Tom Waits, Roxy Music and others—including David Bowie. No matter which artist you type into Musicmatch, be prepared to hear some Bowie. Musicmatch offers a whole week of free service, which I of course signed up for immediately. So far, it hasn’t come through on the promise.

However, Napster offered me two weeks free and delivered. Napster was the center of much controversy when it was the favored site for file sharing a few years ago. Shawn Fanning created the site and a bit of fame for himself and then scored some fast cash selling the moniker to Roxio—the company currently hawking its music service with it.

Thanks to Napster’s freebie, for the past two weeks I have enjoyed access to an enormous library of music. As I looked up De La Soul, Blackalicious and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, I was thrilled by how much music I could listen to as streaming audio. These tracks are also available for download at no extra charge. They are encoded to become unplayable should you unsubscribe (or if your free trial ends). You can download tracks on up to three separate computers.

Whole albums at my fingertips! Newer albums, such as Mos Def’s The New Danger, were also available in their entirety. I didn’t even mind finding that some albums include tracks for purchase only. These tracks, available for under a buck, could be sampled in 30-second bites. Once purchased, the track is yours even if you do not keep your membership to Napster.

To test Napster’s library with something more obscure, I typed in Ed’s Redeeming Qualities. I was impressed to see a healthy sampling of Ed’s tracks available, even if all but three were labeled “purchase only.” Sacramento-cum-New York bands Out Hud and !!! are both well accounted for. Imagine, then, my surprise that Napster turned up nothing of Radiohead. Although Napster can’t find one of the most important British art bands of all time, it does promise that the site is adding bands every day. I imagine there’s a lot of negotiating happening in the music industry right now.

As I type this, I am listening to the site’s endless supply of Rufus Wainwright, and I’ve agreed to give up 10 bucks to enjoy another month. That’s more than those grandmas at Megalomart have ever gotten out of me.