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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Tech Tips: Music for free

The Problem:
Music is expensive. Let’s face it, everything is expensive. But when subsisting on a diet of ramen noodles and free pizza from that club you have no intention of joining, spending money on something like a new album just seems out of the question.

For a while, there seemed to be a myriad of options for getting access to the music we love for free. Unfortunately, almost all of the free sites seem to be following the trend of Hulu+ and now want us to pay for their services — the most disappointing of which is Pandora, which not only has those annoying skip limits and commercials, but now also limits our access to 40 hours of music a month.

Sure, we could all just move to another site, but who else has the ability to mold our playlists to our specific tastes?

The Solution:
Filtr, a free app that can be installed into Spotify. Filtr allows for a very similar music experience to that which you used to be able to get from Pandora. Once installed, all you need to do is insert the name of your favorite band and it will create a playlist of similar artists. Pretty standard.

The cool part is how you can then add the names of many other artists that you love in order to shape your playlist to fit just you. It even gives you a visual representation of what the common thread between the artists are by displaying four bar gauges, each labeled with the specific tag that best suits all the artists you’ve entered.

Another cool feature allows you to connect your Filtr account to your Facebook account, giving you access to all of the bands you have ever “liked” so that you do not have to enter them all by hand. If you think one of your friends has particularly good taste in music, add them, too, and you will get to hear music suggestions designed around the combination of your styles.

Although it requires a little more work on your part than just clicking a “thumbs up” button on a track that fits your taste like you could do on Pandora, the results are surprisingly good. And for the first six months you have your Spotify account, you have unlimited access to a majority of the songs ever made.

Unfortunately, after that six months is up, Spotify ends up being more limited than even Pandora, and you still have to deal with commercials. At that point, you could choose to pay for membership, but instead I would recommend switching to 8tracks.com. It’s much more limited in your ability to customize what you hear, but does not require putting in the effort to create your own playlist. 8tracks is based solely on providing user-created mixtapes based on everything from the time of day to the kind of food you are eating. You sometimes have to deal with playlists made by people who have the musical taste of an orangutan, but hey, the playback time is unlimited, and it’s completely free.

KYLE SCROGGINS can be reached at science@theaggie.org.

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