When streaming services like Spotify or Pandora compete for customers, the main differentiating factor is the size of their libraries. While these and comparable services usually run somewhere around $10 per month, a completely free alternative may actually have the most expansive library out there.
I'm talking about YouTube here, of course. With content from media companies like BMG and VEVO as well as user uploads, YouTube boasts one of the largest music collections on the planet. But if you've ever tried to use Google's video sharing site to stream music, you already know where the lone drawback lies—usability. This played a big part in Google's decision to create YouTube Music Key, but as of now, that paid service is only available to members of Google Play Music All Access.
For a free option that you can use right now, developer Sean Anderson and his Chrome extension have come into play. By providing a user-friendly front end for listening to music and creating playlists, Anderson and his extension have effectively turned YouTube into a free music streaming service.
For this to work, you'll need to be using Google's Chrome web browser. Beyond that, just head to Streamus.com to install Anderson's extension. From here, click the "Install extension now" button to begin.
After that, a popup will appear at the top of your Chrome window. Click "Add" on this message, and the extension will be installed within seconds.
To access Streamus at any time, just click the icon in the top-right corner of Chrome.
This will bring up the player window. From here, click the "Search" icon to find a song or an artist.
When you hover over a search result with your mouse pointer, you'll see a set of controls: Play, Add to Playlist, and Save Playlist. If you'd like to select multiple songs, hover over the album art and click the check box that appears..
After adding songs to a playlist, you'll get your typical shuffle and repeat options near the bottom. But a unique feature here is the "Radio" button. Click this one, and an automatic playlist of similar songs and artists will be generated.
Streamus has a set of customizable keyboard shortcuts that will make music playback even easier. To access these, head to Chrome's settings menu and select "Tools -> Extensions" (or alternatively, type chrome://extensions in your address bar).
From here, scroll all the way to the bottom of the list and click "Keyboard Shortcuts."
Next, scroll through the list until you find the Streamus section. You can use this menu to map playback controls to a keyboard's media buttons, for instance.
With that set up, there's an easy search shortcut you should know about. Just type Streamus into Chrome's Omnibox, then hit the space bar. Anything you type after this will automatically search YouTube, and when you hit enter, playback of the top result will begin immediately.
All told, Streamus is already a solid alternative to Spotify and other streaming services, and that doesn't even count the fact that it's completely free. Do you think you'll ditch your paid music subscription in favor of Streamus?