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I guess I’m years behind the trends in music because I don’t own an iPod and I just got my first ever mp3 player this week. I bought a 1 GB Philips mp3 player for $25 at Office Depot. I know to some it’s probably a cheap piece of junk that will probably fall apart in a year, but for the first time in a long time I’m excited about music again.

My favorite place to listen to music is my car. In the past I listened to tapes, but that required a considerable amount of time to record a proper mix tape and I get a little sick of listening to the same tapes over and over again. So for a while I tried a CD player that plays CDs and mp3 discs. That was nice except for the fact that it used 2 AA batteries and it’s difficult to operate while driving since it requires constant restarting every time you get in and out of the car.

My Philips mp3 player is great because I can use it with my car stereo with the Sony Discman cassette adapter. What I also like about the player is that I can skip songs easily with the buttons. In fact the device was so easy to use that I didn’t even read the instructions. The player is light weight, it operates as a USB flash drive, it can record audio as wave files and it is great for working out. I especially like how fast and easy I can drag and drop the songs onto the player without dealing with DRM or iTunes. If someone steals it then I’m only out $25 and the mp3 player runs on 1 AAA battery for every 8 hours of use. I know it’s no iPod, but I don’t care because I’m happy with what I’ve got.

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There is a lot of free music out there that you could be listening to instead of paying to download stuff from iTunes or Amazon. There are a ton of sites that have streaming music including myspace.com, facebook.com, purevolume.com, virb.com, last.fm, imeem.com, free.napster.com and others.

MySpace features up to six songs on a music profile and the site has replaced the need for many bands to have regular websites. Facebook is still relatively new to the music scene and not every band is on there yet, but there will be more music on there eventually. PureVolume rose from the ashes of MP3.com and it has taken a step back since MySpace came along, but there are still lots of music on there at 96 kbps, unlike most other sites that are 128 kbps. Virb.com is like another MySpace, which may or may not have the same songs as a band’s MySpace.

After the demise of Napster, it became a music subscription site where you can subscribe to the massive catalog of windows media drm-controlled songs for a fee each month. Free Napster is a site that features songs from the service streaming at low bitrates. The quality isn’t the best, but if you want to listen to a whole song and you can’t find it anywhere else this is the place to find it (it’s a catalog of millions of songs).

Imeem.com is a music social networking site. You can upload your own personal MP3s (of your band and your favorite bands) to the site and other people can stream them. Any remotely popular music can be found on the site. Imeem requires people to sign up and login to hear all the songs, but the best part of the site is the playlists that you can make. Last.fm is another music social networking site based in the UK. I wasn’t particularly impressed with it until it started letting users stream songs. There are tons of full albums that stream on the site. You don’t have to sign in to listen to music, which is a plus. However, I don’t think it has the playlist ease of Imeem.com since you have to browse the band’s albums to see which tracks are available for streaming.

There are a lot of sites that also include 30 second samples like iTunes and Amazon. YouTube is probably the best place to find music videos and the audio for its videos are encoded as MP3s. The beauty of YouTube and Imeem is that people are able to upload whatever they want (not always good for copyright holders) and this allows for more people to hear music they would never hear before. Funeral services will likely be held for major record labels and compact discs, but the exciting thing for listeners is that free music isn’t going away anytime soon.

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