That's right--I like free as much as the next guy.
[And I added "education" just to put it on this blog :-) Well, Christian nurture certainly involves various forms of relaxation and even play. And for me, music can be both.]
But I like free things that are also useful and high quality (such demands!).
And by God's grace, I have found two sources of free stuff that's useful and high quality.
For myself, I like good background music when I write. I could use my CD player in my computer but I like mixing things up (multi-CD player anyone?). So, for a while, I ripped most of my old tapes and a few CDs. But that takes time. Then you have to pick a number of MP3s for the mediaplayer to rotate through.
Ha! Why even do that much work when Pandora or Slacker Radio does it for free!
Slacker radio is streaming music based upon genre selection. All you need is a free account (give 'em your junk email address--you do have one, right? Use hotmail for that). And then you pick a station (based upon genre) or look up a song or artist and turn it into a "station". The songs will flow from similar artists and songs.
You are able to pause or skip the current song. You are given so many "skips" before you run out. You can also tag favorite songs or reject the bad ones. It has some visual ads and occasional audio ads too. [A PR from Slacker reminded me, "Once you have created a great station, you can share it via email, Facebook, or even embed the station on your website or blog."]
I ran across Pandora two years ago. And I have never looked back. It is based upon a Music Genome Project that organizes songs by 40 different characteristics. This means that its stations are not so much genre centered as organized by the greatest number of similar characteristics as defined by the Project.
Even so, I prefer Pandora over Slacker. It has fewer ads (I think) and you not only get to skip songs (a limited number of times of course!) you can bookmark the better ones, use them to create a new station or order them.
You can also mix stations (can't in Slacker). Or mix by genre. Or individually chose stations within a genre mix. You can delete stations if they start mixing in songs that detract from your original intent.
And as an added bonus...if you have Firefox you can add the Prism app. This wonderfully amazing app (yes, I like it) can convert any website into an independent web-browser, with a desktop icon. I just double-click the shortcut on my desktop in Windows and up pops Pandora without having to open a new tab in Firefox. (It's also good for email or google calendar).
I think even non technophiles will enjoy these goodies.