17 Best Free Music Apps for iPhone

Last Updated: July 25, 2014

iPhone apps can be expensive, especially if you buy as many as I do. Fortunately, some of the best music apps won’t cost you a dime. Whether you want to listen to free music or identify that unknown song on the radio, these iPhone apps are worthy additions to your collection. Click the app name to go to the App Store to download it or read the review of each app. 

Interested in streaming music apps like Spotify, Rdio, and Beats? Check out this article.

8tracks Radio

Woman in workout clothes listening to music on mobile phone
Carlina Teteris/Moment Open/Getty Images

8tracks Radio is unique in the world of music apps in that it features user-submitted mixes and "handcrafted" playlists. There is a good amount of variety, including everything from Eminem to Arcade Fire. It is rather hard to tell the genre of each mix, as many of the descriptions are more artsy than informative. Clearer descriptions would be nice, as would the ability to rate individuals mixes. 

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Band of the Day

Band of the Day app

This app is like having a very plugged-in friend who recommends an interesting new band to you every single day. And if you're looking to constantly discover new music, that's a very valuable thing to have. Unlike many apps that offer free music for sampling, Band of the Day both closely curates the music it offers and gives you 3-5 songs to sample, which really helps find out if you like the musician. While it leans heavily on a few genres--singer/songwriter, indie, folk, blues--if you like those genres, you'll like this app a lot.

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Concert Vault

Concert Vault app

Concert Vault brings together over 4,500 live concert recordings from the past 60-plus years into a truly impressive catalog. From classic recordings from the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals to modern sets from SxSW to 1960s-era West Coast concerts promoted by Bill Graham, the app offers a bounty for live music lovers. Unfortunately, its performance is slow, with the app often really dragging when it needs to load content via the web. It's limited to 10 hours of free listening per month. Unlimited listening costs US$48/year. 

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Daytrotter app

Daytrotter offers over 1,000 mini concerts--3-5 songs in each--from indie bands both successful and obscure, all for free. Stream music over Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, or LTE, and share music via Twitter and Facebook. With new concerts, called sessions, added all the time, Daytrotter is a fantastic app for the indie music fan or someone who wants to become one.

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iheartradio app

The name iHeartRadio gives a major hint as to what you'll find in this app: a lot of radio. iHeartRadio brings you live streams of radio stations from across the country, so if you love the traditional radio experience, you'll probably love this app. In addition to music stations, you can also tune into news, talk, sports, and comedy stations. Even better, though, the app includes the ability for you to create your own custom "stations," Pandora style, by searching for a song or artist. Some radio shows are also recorded and available for on-demand listening whenever you want.

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iTunes Radio

iTunes Radio on iOS

ITunes Radio is Apple's answer to Pandora: a streaming, radio-style music service that builds its playlists based on the songs or artists a user likes. While it's not as refined as Pandora (which isn't surprising; Pandora's had years to perfect its offering), it's built into iTunes and iOS, is tightly integrated with the iTunes, and provides tons of great music for free. If you subscribe to iTunes Match, it's ad-free. 

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NPR Music

NPR Music app

 The NPR Music app is a great way to discover new music, especially if you are into indie rock. It lacks the variety of other iPhone music apps, but it does include access to 75 public radio stations and popular music podcasts like All Songs Considered and Thistle & Shamrock. You'll also find music news, interviews, and editorial reviews. 

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Pandora Radio

Pandora app

Pandora Radio is one of the most downloaded free apps from the App Store because it’s simple and works incredibly well. Pandora sets itself apart from other Internet radio apps because it compiles customized playlists based on the music you like. Pandora’s recommendations are usually spot-on, and I find it very easy to navigate. Unfortunately, you’re limited to 40 hours of free music per month (it costs $0.99 to upgrade to unlimited usage for 1 month, up to $4.99), and you can only skip up to six songs per hour and 12 songs per day.

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Pitchfork Weekly

pitchfork weekly app

Indie music powerhouse Pitchfork brings its perspective, and its famously tough reviews, to this app. You'll find lots of writing here, but that's not all. The app also offers videos, MP3s from bands Pitchfork covers, and podcasts with both conversation and music performances. If you're primarily looking for Top 40 hits or pop music, you may not find much to like in Pitchfork Weekly. But if you're a fan of indie or lesser-known bands, or looking to expand your musical horizons, it's a great option.

Not Reviewed. 


Rhapsody app

Unlike the music apps discussed above, Rhapsody requires a monthly subscription of at least $9.99 per month. On the plus side, the app allows for unlimited listening to more than 11 million songs, so you can listen to the music you want on demand. Rhapsody also supports offline listening, which is a huge perk. If you buy at least 10 songs from iTunes each month, a Rhapsody subscription is definitely worth considering.

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Scrobbler for Last.fm

scrobbler app

Last.fm is often mentioned as a competitor to Pandora, and while it offers the same type of service -- streaming music -- it has its own unique benefits. The Last.fm app creates personalized music recommendations based on your preferences, but it also provides extras like tour dates and an events calendar. Unlike Pandora, you can skip between songs as much as you like and there are no monthly usage limits, but it takes a bit longer to buffer.

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Shazam app

It can be incredibly frustrating to hear a great song on the radio and not know who sings it. That’s where Shazam comes in. It’s a music identification app that tells you the song title and artist just by hearing about 10 seconds of music. The free version gives you five song identifications per month, while Shazam Encore ($4.99) offers unlimited tags. For most songs, Shazam works very well, but it has a tough time identifying songs from obscure artists.

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Slacker Internet Radio

Slacker Radio

Slacker Internet Radio is another music app that provides access to hundreds of radio stations from nearly every genre. You can also create personalized stations based on specific artists or songs. I really like that Slacker lets you fine-tune these stations by specifying song popularity or year. For example, you can elect to hear fringe groups or popular hits on your personalized station. Slacker does limit the amount of times you can skip a song -- six skips per hour per station -- but the Twitter and Facebook integration is a nice touch.

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Songza app

Songza takes some ideas from the grand old app on this list--Pandora--and applies them to a new idea. Like Pandora, you can rate songs thumbs up and down to help what you hear match your tastes. However, rather than letting you choose the artist or song you want to start with, Songza gives you playlists that match the time of day, your mood, or your activity. There's a great idea there, but unfortunately the Songza app has too many problems with inconsistent bandwidth (in the form of pauses and choppiness) to merit a strong recommendation. 

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soundcloud app

Get the well-known and widely used SoundCloud experience on your iPhone with this app. The other apps on this list simply provide you music; SoundCloud does that, but it's also a platform for musicians, DJs, and other creative people to upload and share their own creations with the world. While the app doesn't allow for uploads on its own (SoundCloud has integrated with an app called AudioCopy for that), it offers access to all that music and the site's other features, including discovery of new artists and social networking. If you really want to be on the cutting edge of the latest indie musicians, SoundCloud is a great option. In-app purchases allow upgrades to the site's Pro and Pro Unlimited features. 

Not Reviewed.

TuneIn Radio

TuneIn Radio app

There are so many radio apps available, but TuneIn Radio really sets itself apart. It includes more than 40,000 radio stations, in addition to local stations in your nearby area. The best part? You can pause and rewind live radio, which is a feature I haven't found on many iPhone radio apps. I also love that the current song is displayed underneath each radio listing. Very rarely, I couldn't get a station to load, but that's the only downside.

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Twitter #music

Twitter #music
image copyright Twitter

Twitter #music has been discontinued

It's hard to understand exactly what Twitter #music really is. It's not quite a music streaming app: by default you only get 30-second previews and full songs require a Spotify or Rdio subscription. It's sort of a music discovery app, but it's hard to find music, the categories bands get put into aren't clear, and its suggestions aren't as powerful as those from services like Pandora. It makes sense to try to add music features on top of the powerful social platform offered by Twitter, but this app isn't close to realizing that promise. 

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