Music P2P services Bearshare and iMesh are now completely offline. Both services provided users with peer-to-peer options to both locate and download music and audio files of all types. iMesh, in particular, let users find and download paid music, giving it some notably legal functionality. This was highlighted in 2004 when the company paid the RIAA $4 million and was allowed to operate without interference.
However, with Bearshare and iMesh now completely unavailable, former users may be looking for alternatives. And in fact, new surveys show that most people who frequented BearShare and iMesh are likely now using legal music streaming options. This is because there are a good many free and legal Bearshare and iMesh alternatives users can turn to both listen to and download music online.
Use a VPN to stream music
There’s an unfortunate truth with streaming services: none are available everywhere, and even if you have a legal right to access music, you may be unable to get to your playlists if you travel abroad. A good virtual private network, or VPN, solves that problem.
A VPN will bypass the kind of geographic content blocks that services like Pandora, Spotify, and YouTube Music put in place. By connecting you to a server in countries where those services are available, you can stream freely and easily without any blocks to the service.
VPNs also provide protection online from various security threats, such as data thieves who spy on payment systems or brute-force attacks that allow hackers to break into your computer and steal data.
Of the many options available, we recommend NordVPN. Not only does it have servers in over 90 countries worldwide, but you’ll also find it’s designed specifically to allow you to access sites and services like Pandora. Plus you can try it out risk free thanks to its 30-day money-back guarantee.
READER DEAL: Get 3 months free with NordVPN’s annual plan. This includes a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try it risk-free.
Best BearShare and iMesh alternatives
Don’t let the lack of BearShare or iMesh stand in the way of good music! Here are the best alternatives to both services that will get you all of the music you could want or need.
Catalog size: 40 million songs*
Payment options: Free ad-supported, or minimum $4.99/month ad-free subscription
Perhaps leading the way in free, legally-available music streaming, Pandora launched in 2000 with the idea that users might like to have individually-crafted music stations without listening to music they don’t like. Even after the company ran out of its $2 million seed money a year later, the founder convinced the company’s employees to work for free for 2 years. Considering the company now has over 81 million active users and had $1.6 billion in revenue in 2016, sticking by unpaid for 2 years was probably a good idea.
Pandora can be made ad-free for $4.99 per month, but if you want to download songs, you’ll need the $9.99 per month subscription.
Unfortunately, for non-US residents, Pandora is only available in the US. However, its blocking methods can be bypassed with a VPN, which will allow anyone to stream Pandora for free.
*Pandora’s library size is hard to pin down. Some sources report anywhere from 1.5 to 2 million songs, while others say the service has access to 40+ million. We decided to go with the higher number.
Catalog size: 35 million
Payment options: Free ad-supported, or $9.99/month ad-free subscription
A close competitor to Pandora, many music lovers prefer Spotify because you can exert far more control over your playlist than with Pandora. However, Spotify’s free version is far more limited than Pandora’s equivalent free option, so users may want to pay for Spotify. The paid option includes the option to download your music and take it with you abroad.
You’ll find Spotify is available across the globe, with 180 million users. There are some countries where Spotify is not available, however, including China. If you’re traveling to or living in China and want to access your Spotify account, you’ll need a VPN.
Catalog size: 52 million songs
Payment options: Minimum $9.99/month subscription
Famously purchased by Jay-Z in 2015, Tidal is a music streaming app that has lossless audio and music videos as distinguishing features. The service boasts over 52 million songs, more than most other music streaming options on our list of Bearshare and iMesh alternatives.
The biggest downside to Tidal is the price. There is no free option for Tidal. Instead, you’ll need to pay either $9.99 per month or $19.99 per month for the lossless high-fidelity audio. You can also download your music with either subscription level.
Thankfully, Tidal is available in over 50 countries, but if you’re living in or traveling to most of Africa, most of Asia, or Russia, you won’t be able to access the service without a bypass.
Catalog size: Unknown, but large*
Payment options: Free ad-supported, or $9.99/month subscription
YouTube Music has only been around since 2015, but the service is a fair contender in the music streaming market. For the most part, the service provides access to all of YouTube’s music library but has its own record label-provided music library all of its own as well. That means that the total number of titles available on YouTube Music is particularly difficult to measure, especially given the company doesn’t provide any specific details on that end either.
For free, you can shuffle songs from a specific artist or play a “radio” version with songs from similar-sounding artists. That actually makes it better than Pandora on its face, as Pandora won’t let you stick with a single helping of one artist without paying for premium.
If you do pay for premium (YouTube Red), you can get your songs as audio-only, as well as download songs.
Although YouTube is available in almost every country on the planet, YouTube Music is not. Without a bypass, the app is only available in Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
*YouTube Music doesn’t advertise its library size. However, as it combines all of YouTube’s music library with licenses from record labels, it’s potentially the most massive option.
Catalog size: 2 million to 40 million (depends on subscription level)
Payment options: Requires Amazon Prime membership at a minimum ($99/year), or $7.99/month for Amazon Music Unlimited
Amazon continues its long march toward having its fingers in all things media related. Amazon Music is a bit of a monster, as well. Users can play “radio”-style streams of different genres or different artists. Of course, if you want a more curated experience, you’ll need to upgrade to Amazon Music Unlimited.
Here’s the catch, however: Amazon Prime access to Music is very feature and library-size limited. If you really want the entire library and the best features from Amazon Music, you’ll need the $7.99 per month subscription. Amazon Music is also very limited in where it’s available. Only those in the US and US territories can access it easily.
Google Play Music
Catalog size: 40 million
Payment options: Free ad-supported, or minimum $9.99/month subscription
Yes, YouTube Music is owned by Google, and Google Play Music is separate. Or is it? There is some evidence that Google is in the process of merging Google Play Music with YouTube Music, so we’ll only provide the list here of the fact that Google Play Music exists and that it has music that you can purchase or stream with a monthly subscription fee of $9.99 per month, or $14.99 per month for a “family” account for up to 6 people.
Catalog size: 45 million
Payment options: Minimum $9.99/month subscription
On the positive end, Apple Music is perhaps one of the better options for Mac and iOS users. It integrates well with all of Apple’s other services and devices, so it’s somewhat of a no-brainer. The negative part is that it will cost you extra, as with almost everything from Apple. The company offers a somewhat generous 3 months free, but after that, it’s either pay up or move on.
Catalog size: 30 million
Payment options: Minimum $4.99/month subscription
No, you didn’t travel back in time. Napster really does still exist, and unlike BearShare or iMesh, it actually put its P2P past behind it and developed a fully-legitimate streaming service. Sadly, there’s no free streaming here, so Napster is not exactly the free-for-all music downloading and streaming service it was back in the day. Still, for $4.99/month, Napster easily beats Pandora free thanks to unlimited skips.
Napster is available in most European and North American countries, as well as several South and Central American countries. If you live or travel anywhere else and you’ll need a VPN to access your account.
Catalog size: 120 million (30 million premium tracks)
Payment options: Minimum $4.99/month subscription
SoundCloud has the most tracks available in its library than any other legal option. The primary reason for that is that the service started as a place for indie and underground music artists to get a platform of their own. Now you can get a large number of well-known artists and labels through SoundCloud.
The service is free, but there are paid options if you want to download music or listen offline, you will need to pay for a subscription, starting at $4.99/month. Those 30 million “premium” tracks (top music artists) are only available permanently if you pay for the $9.99/month subscription.
Those in the US and its territories, several European countries, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, can enjoy SoundCloud. Everyone else will either need to use a different service or use a VPN to bypass geographic content blocking.
Not in the mood for searching through a lot of different music sites for the stuff you want? The best BearShare and iMesh alternative may just be an indexing site.
Hype Machine is like a Google search engine for music. It indexes tracks from hundreds of music sites and lets you know exactly where to find the songs you want. If anything, Hype Machine might just be where you want to go first if you’re looking for specific tracks.
Streaming music without a VPN
While it’s safe to stream music without a VPN from many streaming sources, there may be some websites and services with questionable intentions. As such, it’s always a good idea to secure your connection with encryption through the use of a quality VPN.
It’s a different story when it comes to torrenting music. If you want to be able to do so anonymously (without your ISP seeing what you’re doing), a VPN is highly recommended. That’s because it encrypts your internet traffic and hides your IP address.