If you want to listen to unsigned artists, you can try www.iacmusic.com and www.mymajorcompany.co.uk. You won't get the latest noise by Lady Gaga but you can find some incredible music by musicians you might never hear otherwise.
IAC allows you to create radio stations and add songs to it from the artists on the site. You can share your thoughts about the tunes with the artists and they often respond. You can also purchase tracks for download and I love the fact that every single penny you pay goes directly to the artist. There are thousands of artists and many different genres to choose from. You are bound to find something you like.
Image via CrunchBase
My Major Company also allows you to listen to new artists for free but, here's the twist, you can also invest in them. You buy £10 shares in an artist's project up to a maximum of 100 shares. When an artist raises £100,000 in shares, they are signed up and release an album. Then a percentage of all the profits made are shared amongst the shareholders - physical and digital sales, merchandising, live apprearance fees, and other ancillary rights. I have bought a share in a new band called "Millers Daughter". They are twin girls from Stonehenge who look and sound great. Could be a mini-Corrs! They have already raised £31,000 towards the target. Hope they get the whole amount soon. I think they could be a summer sensation if they can release in time.
It's a great way to get involved, hear free music and maybe make a few pence. Just think, you could own a piece of a future Beatles! In fact, if it's not someone stealing his identity, Paul McCartney is a shareholder of a band called "The Draytones". Not surprisingly, they have a bit of a Beatle-ish sound.
In the end, these sites provide an avenue for new artists to be heard and rewarded for their talent. Even in the age of digital downloads, it is still a music "industry" and the industry usually decides what we get to listen to. This is a way you can make the decisions yourself about what becomes popular, help an artist earn some money and maybe make a profit. It's a win-win situation.