It used to be you needed a ginormous hard drive to build and store your digital music collection. But now that most songs exist somewhere in the cloud—on YouTube, one-stop streaming sites like imeem, or blog aggregators like Hype Machine—services have emerged that help you squeeze the Internet for any track you need. Wherever music lives, you can now play, collect, and share it without downloading any audio files. None of these sites is pitch-perfect, and their fidelity isn't as high as your meticulously encoded lossless library. But in these lean times, free jams are sounding better by the minute.
5 Sites That Tap the Music in the Cloud
This Turkish site compiles audio from around the Net into a database from which you can curate your own playlists. It's fast as blazes (for now, anyway) and boasts a fat catalog.
Wired Simple profile pages facilitate playlist-sharing. Reports recently played songs to FriendFeed, RSS, or just your profile. Shuffle function.
Tired Bare-bones user profiles limit social utility.
Developed by high schooler David Nelson with help from his dad, this upstart accesses the songs on YouTube via an iTunes-like interface.
Wired Makes the music on YouTube feel local. Sharing feature helps you add your own MP3s to the cloud.
Tired Requires Windows XP or Vista. Seizure-inducing design. Catalog limited to what's on YouTube. Special software installation necessary.
Songza wraps the music of imeem and YouTube in a sweet, simple Web interface, the work of Scott Robbin and Aza Raskin—whose father, Jef Raskin, sired the Apple Macintosh.
Wired With a click, Play, Share, Rate, and Add to Playlist tools unfold like a clover. Can use services other than imeem and YouTube. Playlist appears on profile page and RSS feed.
Tired Only one playlist per user.
A P2P streaming architecture lets users in supported countries create collections from a massive in-house music archive.
Wired Fast, free playback through an efficient interface that rivals iTunes. Smooth, robust streaming. Live tech support. $14 per month removes ads.
Tired Currently restricted to Europe (a US rollout is being negotiated). Requires software installation.
Prefer to use iTunes or other downloadable software for your local playback? Twones has you covered. It also tracks your activity on multiple online services and offline players through a single Web interface.
Wired Small-fry sites can sign up to be included in the search, theoretically giving you access to a wider variety of tracks.
Tired Limited playback on the site itself.