November 2017

I think, in an ideal world, I would be an internet DJ. I’ve got good taste in a variety of music, as well as a decent collection of tunes. I could probably do it now, but believe it or not, I am kind of shy. I freeze up when I talk to people. It’s kind of why I got into music in the first place – musicians can say the things I am thinking and feeling so much better than I am capable of.

I find that I am OK with this blog because I am able to think about the things I want to say before I say them, and if it sounds stupid I can always delete it and try again. When you’re on air, there’s no backspace key. Since I run out of things to say in a normal conversation with people and dead air is probably the biggest mistake a DJ can make, it’s a legit concern. It’s something that I’m working to improve.

But say you have an extensive music collection and are lucky enough to have a lot to say. After sending out loads of resumes and not hearing anything back, what else can you do? Believe it or not, most computers nowadays have all the basic hardware you’ll need to get started. There are loads of software programs and plugins that will allow you to broadcast your music over the internet. Some are free, some have both free and paid versions, and others can cost you. I’ll give you a few that I’m familiar with, but with some searching, you’ll find loads more.

There are free programs like SHOUTcast (which gives you the capability to choose your bandwidth and tracks listener information), the freeware program Icecast that runs on any platform, and others. Then there is Livestream – which you can even install on your phone or tablet – a pretty robust program that allows you to even broadcast live video, which costs a subscription fee to broadcast (but it is free to view). StationPlaylist has three different editions for you to choose from, no matter what your budget.

No matter which program you go with, the idea here is to get yourself some experience and possibly build a fan base. While neither may translate right away into profits, both will benefit you in the hunt for a bonafide paying job. First of all, having your own station shows initiative and ability, not to mention giving any potential employers an idea of what a show of yours would be like. Secondly, if you can bring followers to their station, that increases your stock immediately. It will make you stand out among a sea of straight-out-of-school candidates and elevate your chances of getting hired. If you present yourself right, you’ll be able to translate your DIY-radio station into a paying gig.

Keep going, stay focused, and you’ll get there – you’ll rule the radio one day.

Today when I woke up, I asked my Alexa speaker to play my morning playlist and all I got was a glowing red circle at the top of the device. I grabbed my phone to check and sure enough, my internet was down! I immediately started to panic. I started thinking about all the things I couldn’t do: no streaming music, no access to my online library of movies and music, no Netflix. Oh wow. Not for the first time, I wished I had unlimited data on my cellphone.

I have never been so excited to go to work in my life. While work frowns upon us messing around on the internet all day long, they don’t mind if we stream music – good for me, I know. So I loaded up my Spotify account and put in my headphones. I called my internet provider on my lunch break and they confirmed that my neighborhood’s internet was still down, and that they’d be fixing it as soon as possible. I felt a little better knowing that my neighbors were suffering right along with me. The lack of an eta on the internet being back up, on the other hand, was concerning.

When I got home, I realized that the crews had so far been unsuccessful and I still had no internet. I found myself thinking of those people who called 911 when Facebook went down a few years ago. I forget how many things I own are connected to the internet. For example, I’ve got a Nest thermostat, so I actually had to go to the thermostat to adjust it. Normally I can either tell Alexa to do it or use the app on my phone. A minor annoyance, sure, but definitely not what I usually do. Another example is dinner – I usually stream music while I make dinner, and that wasn’t going to happen. It was too quiet, so first decided that I was going to put the tv on. But my cable was out, too. Then I remembered that I had some music downloaded to my phone, so I played that instead. It wasn’t very loud, but at least it was something.

While I’m eating dinner, I usually watch something, but the cable was still out. So I had to get creative again. I had a movie downloaded on my laptop, but the app wouldn’t open without an internet connection – how does that make sense? I probably took about a half hour of yelling at my computer until I remembered there were other options. I had a couple of old blu-ray disks from back before they started releasing the digital films first, so I put one of those in. That was probably the seventieth time I found myself wishing I had an unlimited data plan for my phone.

I decided to go to bed early because there was pretty much nothing to do after I cleaned up for dinner and prepped for tomorrow. I went to set my phone alarm and I realized that the little wi-fi lines were back. Hooray!

If you want free music, there are a couple of options if you want to do so legally. I’ll go over a couple legit sites that I use so you can get an idea of what’s out there. Feel free to check them out the next time you’re looking for some new tunes.

Usually, music is made available for free under one of two licenses: either the owner has released the music through a creative commons license or the songs are public domain (meaning there is no copyright anymore). Keep an open mind as you’re looking and you can find some really great things.

There’s a site called PureVolume that has free songs by some household names in rock, rap, and pop music. It also has emerging artists that are worth a listen as well. While you’re not going to get entire albums for free from famous artists, you will score enough tracks to make your wallet happy.

The artists who make their work available through creative commons are often people who want to get their music out there and expand their audience. A site like Noisetrade allows you to download complete albums for free. If you like the music, you can choose to tip the artist or spread the word. You can even get ebooks (or regular books, if that’s your thing) from Noisetrade. Nice, right?

Another option is the Free Music Archive, which is a free to use/donations appreciated site, but you can get some pretty sweet swag if you do hand over some money. It is part of one of my favorite radio stations, WFMU-FM. This station is available for streaming, and it’s great because the DJs play whatever they want.

Jamendo is another free service with independent music from all different genres. The site is really user-friendly and allows you to find the most popular downloads and the newest music very quickly. They also have a “Best of” playlist every month and you can typically find something good there. There are streaming radio channels, too. You can listen to that and if you hear something you like, you can download the music for free. I think that’s pretty awesome.

Amazon has pages of music available for free, you just have to look for what’s free (go into digital music, click on best sellers, and then select top 100 free). Apple used to have a single of the week, which was awesome, but they don’t offer it anymore. I think it is probably so that they can push their pay service, Apple Music, although I can’t say that for sure.

You can discover a lot of new and talented artists this way, as well as discover some great classics. The next time you find yourself sick of hearing the same songs over and over on the radio, take one of these sites for a spin. I’d love to hear what you come up with in the comments!