Dada offers free tunes from a limited menu

The paid service compares poorly with competitors because of its small selection, but Dada.net is a reasonable source for free streams, plus three free MP3s per month.

When Dada.net, a music site run by a joint venture between major label Sony BMG and Italian mobile-entertainment company Dada, first launched, $9.99 got you 15 "tokens" that could be redeemed for ringtones or MP3s.

Unfortunately, it offered only songs from Sony BMG, as other download services with a much larger selection--notably Amazon.com and Apple's iTunes--began to offer DRM-free downloads for a buck or less.

Despite some big holes, Dada.net does offer a complete selection by some artists, including Radiohead.

The service now has a free tier that offers unlimited streaming, and unlike other free streaming services such as Grooveshark or Spotify , you also get three free MP3 downloads per month. I tested it with a download of Beck's "Bolero", and everything seems legit--you do have to register with a valid e-mail address, but you aren't forced to give a credit card number to get your free service, as with eMusic .

The selection still has some gaping holes--no Led Zeppelin or Beatles, for example--but some non-Sony artists like Pink Floyd and Radiohead (the bulk of whose recordings are owned by EMI) are represented with a full complement of recordings, including obscure live albums and EPs. And, of course, Sony artists like Kings of Leon are fully represented. The free tier is definitely worth checking out, if you can't find a song you're looking for at one of the other free streaming services.

As far as the paid tier goes, I still think that it's a bad deal, at $9.99 a month, for 15 free MP3s (the first month, you get 25). You can get DRM-free downloads for about the same price, with no monthly subscription fee, from many other sources. Another possible deterrent: Dada has been accused of using questionable tactics to attract and retain subscribers. I haven't experienced any problems, and the most recent complaints date from 2006, but the reports are common enough that I have to suggest caution.

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About the author

    Matt Rosoff is an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, where he covers Microsoft's consumer products and corporate news. He's written about the technology industry since 1995, and reviewed the first Rio MP3 player for CNET.com in 1998. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network. Disclosure. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattrosoff.

     

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