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Where’s the music?

New online-music sources are springing up everywhere. Tracks hed: Where’s the music? dek: New online-music sources are springing up everywhere.

Times are tough for online-music junkies. MP3.com has been swallowed up by Vivendi, and Napster’s on a respirator. For many MP3 lovers, the new reality is fee-based music sites, meaning that owning a PC will soon be like owning a jukebox that you still have to feed quarters. There are services and applications scrambling to fill the void; unfortunately, none of them are as versatile, easy to use, or contain as much music as Napster, but some might suffice during this dry spell.

Friskit has gotten a goodly amount of attention considering its drawbacks. It’s not so much file-sharing technology as it is stream-sharing. A search for an artist, ideally, will turn up a Web site that contains streaming audio of your request. Friskit is fast and efficient, but it has its problems. One is selection. A search for Rolling Stones–a moderately popular British band; maybe you’ve heard of them–turned up precisely one hit, and it was an excruciating cover of “Honky Tonk Women” by some East Coast bar band. On the plus side, Friskit lets you customize your settings so it only searches for streams of a predefined quality and bit rate–no more watery 16Kbps streams if you don’t want them.

Bearshare is a downloadable, Windows-only Gnutella client that promises to be easier, more powerful, and more intuitive than other Gnutella knock-offs. It boasts a simple interface combined with a powerful connection and search engine, but, again, not much of a selection.

Napigator scours Window’s “nap” clients including Napster and Opennap, offering real-time server statistics and ping times, and letting you choose the server you want based on the number of users, files, gigabytes, and network lag. Another pro: It’s not a bot, so it won’t get you booted off servers with a no-bot policy.

Aimster works from a strictly peer-to-peer strategy, using a secure private network to let you send an instant message to a fellow user so that the two of you can work out a swap. If Napster’s ethic of grab-what-you-can makes you uncomfortable, maybe you should try Aimster.

For Mac users, LimeWire LLC’s latest version of its free peer-to-peer software package, LimeWire 1.4, enables file sharing on the Gnutella network. It’s easy to install, run, and search, and comes with customizable family filters, browser blocking, firewall detection, customized search and download options. LimeWire not only makes it possible to search and download MP3 music files, but also games, movies, word-processing documents, and other computer files. The latest version (1.4) includes server quality ratings, faster downloads, and the ability to resume downloads.

If you want to let the music come to you instead of doing all that tiresome searching, maybe BitBop Tuner is for you. It searches thousands of Internet radio stations and automatically picks the best ones based on your favorite artists (based on data you provide). It can even make a recording of your song (for listening only, not redistributing).

Is streaming MP3 the next big thing? Audiogalaxy is hoping so. The site offers free 25MB Web pages for aspiring superstars to post tracks, photos and other info, as well as a few (but not many) tracks by established artists. If you seek what the band X once called “the unheard music,” give this site a try.

Next month, we’ll dig a little deeper and see if we can’t find that dream application that’ll suit all your music needs. If you know of one, clue me in.

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