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'The Hobbit' stars read 'The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins'

First released as a single, "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" by Charles Randolph Grean pays homage to Tolkien's "The Hobbit" and was sung by Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy. It became a folk hit in the late '60s, and was rediscovered decades later by fans on YouTube.

In this IGN video, the stars of "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" perform a dramatic reading of Nimoy's famous song. The video proves once again that actor Benedict Cumberbatch can make even a campy song sound like a Shakespearean sonnet.

And here's the original … Read more

Download's merriest music apps

Your in-laws are criticizing your carving skills, Grandma Edith's guzzling the port, and the tree's catching fire. Yes, Christmas can feel so predictable. Take a break from the melodrama with Download's favorite festive music apps.

Bjork: Solstice ( iOS)

Bjork is far out, and that's why we love her. Based on the track "Solstice" from the Icelandic singer's "Biophilia" album, this free app allows you to pull rays out of a sun to create harp strings that are then plucked by orbiting planets. With a tilting motion, your creation morphs into a … Read more

The 10 best Christmas songs of the last 40 years

It'll be more of a blue Christmas than a holly jolly holiday if you're stuck suffering through the same old songs that your parents have been playing on the gramophone for as long as you can remember. So spice up your next holiday get-together with Download.com's list of our 10 all-time favorite holiday hits from the last 40 years.

Some of our picks, such as "Frosty the Snowman" and "We Three Kings," are perennial classics that have been reinvented in interesting ways by some of our favorite artists. Others, like "Christmas … Read more

The 404 1,401: Where we get in the groove with Steve Guttenberg (podcast)

Leaked from today's 404 episode:

- U-Turn Orbit: An audiophile-quality turntable for $179.

- Steven's Koss Pro4AA Titanium review.

- MDR SA5000: Sony's classic, audiophile-grade, full-size headphone.

- Why open a huge new record store in 2013?

- New Spotify report debunks "per stream" payments for artists.

- Check out Fuse's awesome video series about obsessive record collectors.

- The Wrecking Crew: The best-selling band you've never heard of.… Read more

Wake up to Pandora and smell the free Spotify

Pandora gets alarm clock function

( iOS, Android)

Earlier this year, Pandora added the Sleep Timer function to its mobile app so that Pandora listeners can fall asleep to their favorite stations. Now users can wake up to their beloved tunes with the new Pandora Alarm Clock. Music lovers no longer have to settle for the stock alarm clock's limited sound selections (thanks to iOS, quacking ducks now enrage me to no end). This long-awaited and much-welcome feature comes with the standard alarm clock features, such as timer and snooze, and Alarm Clock even ties in with the Sleep Timer. … Read more

Rdio now streaming tracks to 51 countries

Online subscription music service Rdio expanded its global footprint to 20 new territories, including the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Hungary, the company announced on Wednesday.

All told, the company's streaming service is now available in 51 countries. Rdio said this expansion makes them the "second largest music subscription service in the world in terms of countries serviced."

Rdio's announcement was a not-so-subtle attempt to steal some of the spotlight from Spotify, which unveiled free mobile apps on Wednesday. Previously, Spotify allowed desktop or browser-based streaming for free, but only premium members who paid $10 a month … Read more

The Audiophiliac's under $100 holiday gift guide

Music and audio bling make terrific presents, so here's a nice assortment of goodies. While audiophile gear can be quite expensive, picking out a selection of terrific gift ideas that won't break the bank is still doable. Prices start at $10 and go up to $100. I'll trot out another list of $100+ gift ideas in a few days.

Spotify expands to 20 new markets

Spotify said on Wednesday that it has expanded to 20 new markets around the world.

The music service had expanded to 35 markets from 17 this year. But with additional 20 announced today, that brings its total presence to 55 markets.

The announcement comes as Spotify announced that its mobile app would be available for free, potentially expanding its listener base.

The new markets will get the free mobile app from day one, CEO Daniel Ek said.

Here are all of the markets Spotify currently serves:

Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, … Read more

Review: Google Play Music stores up to 20,000 songs online to be played on demand

Google Play Music taps into Google's extensive music library and uploads and stores your own music collection in the cloud. The only downside is that you can't purchase songs and subscriptions directly from the app.

After installation, Google Play Music will ask you to sign in to your Google account, but if you're using any other official Google apps you will be signed in, automatically. The product comes free of charge, but in order to have access to Google's full library of songs, a $10-per-month subscription is required. While testing, the app proved to be silky … Read more

Apple brings on sales exec for iTunes Radio

Apple has brought on a new sales executive to help it generate more cash off its streaming-music service iTunes Radio.

Apple has hired Michael Pallad to oversee part of the company's iTunes Radio ad sales, CNET has heard from industry sources. AdAge was first to report on the hiring on Tuesday. Pallad previously served as the executive vice president of sales at major radio company Cumulus Media.

iTunes Radio launched in September. The service is Apple's foray into music streaming and represents stiff competition to services like Pandora, Spotify, and others. Apple has been sprinkling in ads into … Read more