38 free/cheap music sites — Welcome to the fray, Qbox!

Ever since Napster brought free MP3s mainstream — and subsequently garnered the wrath of the Recording Industry Association of America — the music industry has been reeling.

earphonephotosmall.jpgNo single strategy for listening to music online has come to dominate the market, as record labels, managers, artists, fans, Apple’s music offering, Internet radio and recommendation companies all jockey for position. But one thing is clear above all the din: Fans will not be denied their music — and most want it free.

Music network Qbox is the very latest to join the fray of companies hoping to stake a claim in this market. It’s releasing its beta Friday. It gives users who search for musicians in Wikipedia or Google a Qbox icon on their screen, which they can click to then hear music to go with the artist information that comes up in their search results.

CBS-owned music discovery service Last.fm has also just announced a freebee that it hopes will give it an edge: Users can now listen to the full track of any song three times for free. The company hopes this promotion will prime users for its upcoming subscription service launch. How will Qbox and Last.fm fare against the competition?

With such a variety of services on offer and so many developments within those services, it’s hard to tell. But in an attempt to give you some perspective on what the various free, or at least cheap, music offerings are — whether for the computer, mobile phone, or even the Nintendo Wii — we’ve compiled a list.

We tell you what the service does, what its business model looks like, and whether it lets users stream or download, among other things. The most useful categories may be 1) what we’ve termed “musicability,” or how easy can you find the song you want (this may be the best way to pick a potential favorite), and 2) “genre,” or how easy it is to search through a particular genre of music. Both are rated on a scale of 5.

Despite copyright restrictions, many of the sites manage to share music legally; others are dubious but are surviving anyway. We’ve most definitely missed several — we haven’t included most torrent or peer-to-peer (P2P) companies because there are simply too many of them and the majority operate illegally.

Many of the companies below have indexed their competitors’ sites — Songza started out scouring YouTube music videos for music, while Songbeat is a desktop application that uses Seeqpod’s engine.

We haven’t picked a personal favorite, in part because of the mind numbingness of the choices, but I will say that listening to music on the internet probably needs its own Crunchies. I was mystified by how many companies don’t allow searching by genre.

Anywhere.fm — “iTunes for the Web.” It lets users upload songs from their iTunes or desktop to a Web-based account. Users can share music with friends as “radio stations.”
Where: Desktop to Browser Mobile: No
How: Stream
Musicability (how easy is it to find the song you want): 5 Genre (how easy is it to search by genre): 5
Business Model: Advertising by inserting audio ads into music stream, premium accounts, and affiliate sales
Financing: Y Combinator
Status: Beta
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

Deezer — the reincarnation of French site Blogmusik. It claims to be the first legitimate music search engine. Users can browse songs, create playlists, request songs not in the database, and listen to the exact song they select.
Where: Browser
How: Stream
Mobile: No
Musicability: 4
Genre: 4
Business Model: Ad-based revenue, links to Amazon and iTunes
Financing: N/A
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, others

Ezmo –an unlimited music storage space. Users can upload entire music collections and share with up to ten of their friends. Ezmo player runs on Adobe’s Flash Player, inside any web browser. Users upload from iTunes, Windows Media, Winamp, and File Folder and can change names of artists/album for their personal libraries.
Where: Browser/ Desktop
How: Stream
Mobile: Soon
Musicability: 4
Genre: 1
Business Model: N/A
Financing: Fully-owned subsidiary of FAST search company, which Microsoft recently bought
Status: Beta
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English, Norwegian, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese

Finetune — a Flash-based application. Users select songs, build playlists, share/embed playlists. Can be used on desktop and Nintendo’s Wii.
Where: Desktop/ Browser/ Wii
How: Stream
Mobile: No
Musicability: 5
Genre: 5
Business Model: Ad-based revenue
Financing: N/A
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

Flytunes, a service that just released, offers users a music experience as an alternative to satellite radio — access to thousands of high-quality personalizable music channels for the iPhone (and other mobile devices later). Includes 30 minute caching when phone not in service range.
Where: Browser/ Desktop/ iPhone
How: Stream
Mobile: Yes
Musicability: N/A
Genre: N/A
Business Model: Targeted AdSense-like Ads
Financing: Company was originally Broadclip, inc. creators of MediaCatcher Facebook app. Received funding from Angel’s Lancaster Angel Network and the Investment Circle of York
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

Freemusiczilla — a social music downloading service that lets users download free music from MySpace, imeem, Last.fm, Pandora, Myspace, eSnips, Mog, iJigg, Radio.blog.club and others
Where: Desktop
How: Download
Mobile: No
Musicability: 5+
Genre: 5
Business Model: Premium version to be released
Financing: N/A
Status: Live
Legal: Questionable
Language(s): English

Fuzz — a social Music service and label for listening to indie artists. Users can listen to, purchase, share and review music. Users can also create “mixtapes” and share/embed them.
Where: Browser
How: Stream/ Download
Mobile: No
Musicability: 3
Genre: 4
Business Model: Ad-based revenue, music store, label-related revenue
Financing: N/A
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

The Hype Machine — a music search engine that indexes audio files on blogs. Users can search for an artist, and play the song. Songs have the blogs attached to them and a link to the blog, as well as links to iTunes and Amazon to buy the song.
Where: Browser
How: Stream
Mobile: No
Musicability: 5
Genre: 3
Business Model: N/A
Financing: Private
Status: Live Legal: Questionable
Language(s): English

iLike –Facebook’s top application is a social music site where users discover and share playlists. iLike’s iTunes and WMA Sidebar scans and recommends music from your library.
Where: Browser
How: Stream/ Download
Mobile: No
Musicability: 5+
Genre: 2
Business Model: Links to buy songs/albums from Amazon and iTunes
Financing: $15.8 million total. $2.5m from Khosla Ventures and Bob Pittman. $13.3 million from IAC’s Ticketmaster. Other investors.
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

Imeem — a social network media site that features blogs, music, videos, and photos. Users listen, upload, watch, create playlists, embed and recommend allowed media content (digitally fingerprinted).
Where: Browser
How: Stream
Mobile: No
Musicability: 5
Genre: 5
Business Model: Ad-based revenue, licensing deals with the big four Record Labels, Viacom, and others. Artists paid by popularity of music.
Financing: Known investors include Morgenthaler Ventures and Sequoia Capital
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

Jango — a social music service that lets you create and share custom radio stations. Embeddable MySpace JukeBox widget.
Where: Browser
How: Stream
Mobile: No
Musicability: 4
Genre: 5
Business Model: Ad-based revenue, purchase music through Amazon
Financing: N/A
Status: Beta
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

Lala — hails itself as the “Complete Music Store.” Users can listen to full songs, buy physical CDs, or buy and download DRM-free songs directly to iPod. Users can also turn Lala into a music locker service with plugin.
Where: Browser/ Desktop
How: Stream/ Download
Mobile: No
Musicability: 5
Genre: 5
Business Model: Music Store
Financing: $9 million from Bain and Ignition Ventures.
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

Last.fm — a social media radio site. Users can “scrobble” music listened to on an iPod or computer. That data is used by Last.fm to create a radio station based on your favorite music. It also uses music from users who have similar listening habits, as well as the ability to create a station based on any artist. Users have profiles, events, and widgets that are embeddable on MySpace, Facebook, your blog, and even Google gadgets.
Where: Browser/ Desktop
How: Stream/ Download
Mobile: No
Musicability: 5+
Genre: 5+
Business Model: Ad-based revenue
Financing: CBS acquired company for $280 million in May of 2007. Last.FM originally received $5 million in May 2006 from Index Ventures.
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

Maestro — a social music locker where Users can upload, sync and stream music from their own and friends’ computers. MySpace widget.
Where: Browser/ Desktop
How: Stream
Mobile: No
Musicability: 2
Genre: 2
Business Model: N/A
Financing: Private
Status: Beta
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

Media Master — provides users with an unlimited music locker service that hosts and stores music collections online to stream your music to computer, mobile phones, and internet-connected living room devices. Can embed widgets in blog, MySpace, and Facebook.
Where: Browser/ Desktop
How: Stream
Mobile: Yes
Musicability: 4
Genre: 4
Business Model: N/A
Financing: Privately funded — features former execs from Sony, Walmart, and Yahoo
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

Meemix — lets users create music channels from preferences and individual tastes. Can also personalize a channel based on user profile, previous music selection and behavior.
Where: Browser
How: Stream
Mobile: No
Musicability: 3
Genre: 2
Business Model: Album sales, future revenue from ringtones and ads.
Financing: Undisclosed Angel Investors
Status: Beta
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

Melodeo — A mobile multimedia company whose newest product, nuTsie, lets you access your iTunes library from the web or your mobile phone — with old iPod interface. Signed deal with China’s second largest telecom in a joint venture with Access Co, Sony BMG, Warner Music Group and Motorola.
Where: Desktop to Browser
How: Stream
Mobile: Yes
Musicability: 4
Genre: 0
Business Model: N/A
Financing: $17.4 million from Ignition Partners, Voyager Capital, GF Capital, and Intel Communications.
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

Mog — a social Music blogging service to find new music, watch music videos, and read news and reviews that match your personal taste in music. Embeddable music player. Each user has own Mog page showing music they’re listening to.
Where: Browser/ Desktop
How: Stream
Mobile: No
Musicability: 5
Genre: 3
Business Model: N/A
Financing: $1.2 million 3.2 million from Undisclosed angel investors
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

MP3tunes — an online music locker. Automatically syncs new music on computer. Available on PS3, Nintendo’s Wii, Windows Mobile, Nokia Phones, Tivo and more.
Where: Desktop / Browser/ Playstation 3/ Nintendo Wii
How: Stream/ Download music
Mobile: Yes
Musicability: 5
Genre: 3
Business Model: Unlimited tracks when upgraded to premium locker
Financing: CEO Michael Robertson, founder of MP3.com, Linspire, and SIPphone
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

Musana — a music storage locker. Upload MP3s from your computer and listen to them through a browser-based player.
Where: Browser
How: Stream/ Download
Mobile: No
Musicability: N/A
Genre: N/A
Business Model: N/A
Financing: N/A
Status: Private beta
Legal: Yes
Language(s): French, English

MySpace — the US’s biggest social networking site.
Where: Browser
How: Stream/ Download as artists allow
Mobile: Yes
Musicability: 5
Genre: 5
Business Model: Ad-based revenue
Financing: MySpace’s parent company, Intermix, was purchased by News Corp for $580 million.
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, Turkish, others

Mystrands — offers users a desktop application that builds a recommendation playlist based on your current music. Also can play music from a YouTube video search.
Where: Desktop — Windows/ OSX / Linux
How: Stream
Mobile: Yes
Musicability: 4
Genre: 4
Business Model: Ad-based revenue
Financing: $55 million from BBV, Ansenio, and Debaeque Sequel
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese

Orb – Its “MyCasting” is remote storage for photos, music, videos, and live television from a home PC to any internet-connected device -– phone, PDA, laptop, etc. Users can stream and share playlists.
Where: Browser/ Desktop
How: Stream
Mobile: Yes
Musicability: 4
Genre: 4
Business Model: N/A
Financing: Backed by Morgenthaler Ventures
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English, Japanese, French, Spanish

pandora.jpgPandora — a service with more than 10 million registered users, generates personalized streaming radio for your computer, mobile phone or home entertainment system based on the Music Genome Project.
Where: Browser
How: Stream
Mobile: Yes
Musicability: 5
Genre: 3
Business Model: Ad-based revenue, $3/mo without ads. Users can purchase music on Amazon/ iTunes
Financing: $20.8 million from Labrador Ventures, Shelby Ventures, WaldenVC, and Crosslink Capital
Status: Live
Legal: Questionable
Language(s): English

Phling — a PSP service for your cellphone that allows you to relay multimedia between your phone, your IM buddy list, and your home computer. Stream music from PC to Phone. Also offers music storage.
Where: Mobile
How: Stream/ Download
Mobile: Yes (Only)
Musicability: N/A
Genre: N/A
Business Model: N/A
Financing: N/A
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

Qbox.com — a social music network service launching Friday, gives users 18 million songs through social networks such as MySpace, Bebo, and YouTube. Qbox analyzes webpages such as Google or Wikipedia for song titles, and creates links to the actual songs on various social networks using the Qbox toolbar. Qbox has an embeddable widget that allows users to add music playlists on MySpace or blogs.
Where: Desktop/ Browser
How: Stream Mobile: No
Musicability: TBA
Genre: TBA
Business Model: TBA
Financing: Private Angel Investors
Status: Beta
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

RadioBlogClub — a music search engine and store that features a buildable playlist. Is on Nintendo’s Wii, Facebook app, iGoogle widget, and can share/embed in a blog.
Where: Browser/ Wii
How: Stream/ Download
Mobile: No
Musicability: 5
Genre: 0
Business Model: Ad-based revenue, Amazon powered MP3 store
Financing: N/A
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

Rerverbnation — a MySpace-like social network for artists, record labels, managers, venues, and fans. Makes “myband” facebook app.
Where: Browser
How: Stream/ Download as artists allow
Musicability: 3
Genre: 3
Business Model: Ad-based revenue, artists can pay to be featured
Financing: N/A
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

Seeqpod — a search and discovery music engine born in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California. The company plans to launch a search/discovery engine for all “playable” rich media fields to include video, audio, powerpoint presentations, slideshows, and other rich media.
Where: Browser
How: Stream
Mobile: No
Musicability: 4
Genre: 0
Business Model: N/A
Financing: $5 million from undisclosed investors. Lawrence Berk Lab owns five percent stake.
Status: Beta
Legal: Yes
Languages(s): English

SkreemR is a music search engine. It indexes audio files on the internet and can play through music player. Uses “AudioRank” algorithm, placing emphasis on higher quality audio files.
Where: Browser
How: Stream
Mobile: No
Musicability: 4
Genre: 0
Business Model: Ad-based revenue
Financing: N/A
Status: Live
Legal: Questionable
Language(s): English

Slacker — music radio for those of us who don’t want to spend time creating playlists. Music plays on the Web or desktop depending on user preference. Wi-FI Portable Radio player releases end of January. Users are only allowed to skip six times on any given radio station before that feature is disabled due to legal restrictions.
Where: Desktop/ Browser
How: Stream/ Download for a fee
Mobile: Yes
Musicability: 5
Genre: 5
Business Model: Ad-based revenue, upgrade to $7.50/mo subscription-based downloadable service
Financing: $53.5 million from Austin Ventures, Mission Ventures, Sevin Rosen Funds, and Rho Ventures
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

Songbeat — a desktop application that allows users to search/stream/download MP3s using Seeqpod’s engine.
Where: Desktop
How: Stream/ Download
Mobile: No
Musicability: 4
Genre: 0
Business Model: Upgrade to songbeat pro, ad-based revenue
Financing: N/A
Status: Live
Legal: Questionable
Language(s): English, Spanish, German, Russian, Dutch, Polish, Turkish, Swedish

songza.jpgSongza — a jukebox/music search engine. Users search for, listen to, and rate songs, add to player and embed the player in other sites.
Where: Browser
How: Stream
Mobile: No
Musicability: 5
Genre: 0
Business Model: N/A
Financing: Founded by Humanized
Status: Live
Legal: Questionable
Language(s): English

SpiralFrog — an online music service with about one million songs that lets users download songs and music videos licensed from both major and independent record labels.
Where: Browser/ Desktop
How: Stream (video only) / Download
Mobile: Yes
Musicability: 4
Genre: 5
Business Model: Ad-supported revenue, signed with EMI and Universal Music Group. Record labels get share of ad-revenue.
Financing: $12 million in debt and financing.
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

Streampad — lets users stream music from computer through internet connection and listen to others’ music and concerts. It recently partnered with MP3Tunes.
Where: Desktop to Browser/ Browser
How: Stream/ Download personal music
Mobile: No
Musicability: 3
Genre: 1
Business Model: N/A
Financing: N/A
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

Virb — a cleaner-looking MySpace (once hailed as the MySpace killer) without as many musicians or fans. (I included purevolume, because it’s Virb’s sister company.)
Where: Browser
How: Stream/ Download — artist controlled
Mobile: No
Musicability: 3
Genre: 1
Business Model: Ad-based revenue
Financing: N/A
Status: Live
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

We7 — an ad-supported music downloading service. Ads are 10-second audio clips from advertisers, Music is DRM free. Downloading is legal and revenue is shared with artist. Fans can review artists.
Where: Browser
How: Stream/ Download
Mobile: No
Musicability: 3
Genre: 4
Business Model: 10-second audio clip ad-based revenue
Financing: $6 million from Eden Ventures, Spark Ventures, Peter Gabriel
Status: Beta
Legal: Yes
Language(s): English

YouTube — the world’s most watched video site (and which has lots of free music).
Where: Browser
How: Stream/ Download (some videos, or with an open source downloader)
Mobile: Not yet
Musicability: 5
Genre: 3
Business Model: Google-based ad revenue
Financing: Google bought for $1.65 billion.
Status: Live
Legal: Mostly
Language(s): Major languages

David Adewumi, a contributing writer with VentureBeat, is the founder & CEO of http://heekya.com a social storytelling platform billed “The Wikipedia of Stories.”