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Rock Your Office: Streaming Music that Can Turn Up Your Billables to 11.1

September 22, 2011

A recent unscientific poll at my office showed that at least half of the attorneys whose office I walk by on the way to the bathroom have some sort of music setup, be that an iPod dock or headphones plugged in to their PC.  For me, background music can make a huge difference in how billable time passes; if I’m writing a fiery motion, one can go with something heavy, like Iron Maiden or Torche – if it’s a nice day and there’s no way to review documents outside, some summer music (the kids like Surfer Blood or Foster the People) can really move things along.

From gargantuan iPods with AI playlists, to incredible applications that can name that tune, this is an incredible time to enjoy new (and new to you) music.  And you don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of money to legally do so.  There  are a number of great, free (for now) online music services that will broaden your horizons. Provided you’re not violating your firm or employer’s acceptable technology use policy – and you aren’t, are you? – check them out.

You’ve probably heard of and maybe have tried Pandora Radio – it’s been around for a few years. But if you haven’t checked it out in a while, you should.  With Pandora, you get a free account that allows you 40 number of hours of music per month.  (For under $40 per year, you can get unlimited, commercial-free rocking).  You create “radio stations” by entering an artist, album, or song you like – then Pandora uses an analysis of over 400 different musical attributes and 2,000 “focus traits” (such as rhythm syncopation, keytonality, vocal harmonies, and so forth) to determine a neverending playlist of other songs similar to the artist, album or song that acts as the anchor for each station.  If your taste diverges from prediction of the analysis – and you may be surprised at how infrequent that is – you can vote “thumbs down” for the song and help influence the playlist.  Pandora’s also available on many devices – even blackberries http://www.pandora.com/blackberry.  Pandora has  80,000 artists, 800,000 tracks in its library and 80 million users, and just went through an IPO. 

Spotify is the new kid on the block – at least domestically speaking.  Huge in Europe, Spotify is a Swedish music streaming service offering an absolute ton of music from a range of major and independent record labels.  It just opened up in the US, but is currently “invite only,” so you’ll have to enter your e-mail address on their page and hope for the best.  Or, e-mail that guy you know who was a radio DJ at your college station – he’s almost certainly a member with some invites to spare. Once you are in, you’ll get your hands on of a truly massive collection of streaming music (15 million tracks, and growing by approximately 10,000 tracks per day) – for free. Even better, it will link to Facebook and show you playlists made by your friends – a great way to find new music.

(Spotify Free is unlimited for now, but there’s a good chance that free accounts will be limited to a certain number of hours per month in the near future.  Even so, Spotify offers an subscription for an “unlimited” account that, well, is what it sounds like).

I bet you haven’t considered The Free Library of Philadelphia as a source for free digital music, but, it is.  In addition to some streaming options, they offer two different services for cardholders to download music. Freegal Music, where you can Download three songs a week from the entire catalog of Sony Music in MP3 format (DRM-free) and the OverDrive Media Console, where you can download hundreds of albums in Windows Media format.

There’s plenty more where these came from. If I missed a good one, let everyone know in the comments!

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About Me:My name is Mike Murphy, and I am an attorney in Philadelphia and a member of the Philadelphia Bar Association and YLD. I am a native of Detroit, and have lived in Philadelphia for six years (the last five consecutively).

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