Protect Yourself Against Data Loss With This Powerful Recovery App

Digital files can be some of the most important and treasured possessions you have. Whether it's business-critical folders or photographs of family members who've passed away, everyone has files that they can absolutely not afford to lose.

And yet, accidents do happen. Hard drives can become corrupted, files can be accidentally deleted, and content can be overwritten unintentionally.

Of course, you might be able to find some lost files in your computer's Recycle Bin, but for more serious issues, it is not a sufficiently powerful tool.

Instead, you need a specialist app such as Disk Drill. It can recover more than 200 types of files, even if they are no longer visible in the bin. And the best news? MakeUseOf has teamed up with Disk Drill to bring today's special deal to readers.

You can bag yourself a lifelong subscription to Disk Drill Pro 4 for just $50. That's 57 percent below the regular price of $118.

Want to know more? Keep reading.

What is Disk Drill Pro 4?

Disk Drill Pro 4 is a premium file recovery app for Windows and Mac. The app makes it easy to recover documents, music, photos, videos, or even whole partitions that have gone missing from your computer.

The app is so powerful thanks to the vast number of file types it supports—there were more than 200 at the last count. And if you only need to reconstruct a corrupted file rather than recover a lost file, you can use Disk Drill with more than 400 file types.

Some of the other key features you will find on Disk Drill Pro 4 include:

  • Storage devices: Disk Drill doesn't only work with hard drives in your computer; you can also use the app to recover files on removable drives.
  • Ease-of-use: There is a single Recover button that will scan and fix your files, so there are no complex settings to worry about for newcomers.
  • Duplicate files: Disk Drill Pro 4 can find and remove duplicate files. If you have multiple copies of the same photo or music track, it is an ideal tool.
  • Create backups: You can use the app to make byte-to-byte disk and partition backups.

Other features include a disk space visualizer, a data shredder, a free disk space eraser, and the ability to create a bootable USB drive.

How to Get Disk Drive Pro 4

If you would like to buy today's MakeUseOf deal, you can click the link and add Disk Drive Pro to your shopping cart.

Remember, the app is available on Windows and Mac, and you are entitled to lifetime updates.


Teach Your Kids to Read With a Subscription to Homer

If you have a young child, you'll know how hard it can be to teach them all the skills they need in life.

Between children's notoriously short attention spans and adults' commitments to work and running the household, some skills are not practiced as much as they should be outside of school time.

Luckily, we live in an age where technology can fulfill many of our shortcomings, and kids' learning is no different.

For example, consider Homer. The app is an essential early learning tool for children aged between two and eight.

Let's take a closer look.

What Is Homer?

Homer focuses its lessons around five key pillars: reading, math, social and emotional learning, thinking skills, and creativity.

Each pillar takes the child along a development pathway. For example, the reading pillar starts out with letters and sounds, then develops into sight words, spelling, and reading entire texts. According to Homer's own research, its methodology is proven to increase early reading scores by as much as 74 percent.

Of course, the learning pathways are also customized for each child. The app will consider the kid's age, interests, and current skill level before suggesting lessons.

You can download lessons for offline learning when you are traveling or away from Wi-Fi for a prolonged period, and you can add up to four child profiles so all the youngsters in your family can learn at the same time.

Importantly for a kids' app, the entire service is also ad-free. You can access the app via a browser or by using the Android and iOS apps.

How Much Is a Homer Subscription?

A monthly plan costs $10/month and an annual plan is $60/year.

However, as a MakeUseOf reader, you can grab a special discount on a Homer subscription if you take advantage of today's deal.

That's because we have secured an agreement to offer a 12-month plan for just $40; that's 33 percent cheaper than the regular price.

The deal provides access to Homer's Learn and Play program. The company also offers a hands-on bundle, but that is not included. If you want the extra features, you can purchase it separately on Homer's website.

Note that you need to be a new Homer user to take advantage. There are no geographical restrictions on where Homer will work.


8 Reasons Why You Should Start Using SoundCloud Today

SoundCloud is often thought of as a hangout for indie kids and backyard bands—a place to discover new music. That's true to an extent, but it's far from the full story. SoundCloud is packed with features that will apply to listeners of all stripes.

Here are seven reasons why you need to start using SoundCloud today.

1. It's Not Just for Indie Bands

The site is more than just a place to find obscure music; SoundCloud also boasts an impressive line-up of highly regarded bands.

Today, the company has licensing deals with several recording studios, including Universal Music and Warner Bros. That means it can stream artists such as Adele, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, and many more for free.

2. Quickly Discover New Music

SoundCloud releases weekly top charts across a number of genres. They list the most popular tracks on the app in the previous seven days, which is sure to help you find new music with ease.

Don't forget, the list of charts goes beyond music. You will also find charts for audiobooks, podcasts, and niche sectors such as sports music and business analysis.

The charts let you see the number of plays from the previous week or from all time, and you can easily share the clips straight from the list.

What's most impressive about this is that the charts include names you may or may not have heard of, which is sure to increase your knowledge and awareness about what's currently popular. Staying on top of what's good is never a bad thing.

3. Share Music With Ease

In addition to finding music you like, you'll also find that sharing music via SoundCloud is incredibly easy. The site's embedding, messaging, and sharing options are impressive. There's a good reason why the site dubs itself as a "global online audio distribution platform." Just click on a track's Share icon to get started.

In addition, WordPress and SoundCloud worked out a deal so that you can perfectly integrate a song or playlist on your personal site. While on SoundCloud, simply click on WordPress code next to the embed code, copy it, and paste it into a WordPress post or page.

4. The SoundCloud Community

SoundCloud has a range of community-focused tools that let users and artists interact with each other.

For example, you'll notice a bunch of profile icons on the soundwave of your favorite song. This unique feature allows the community to engage with each other, whether that's a fan telling their favorite artist what they like about a song or simply giving them a shout-out.

You can also send comments to your favorite group, follow users and bands, and repost songs (along with a timestamp and/or comment) on your own profile, all of which help the community to become more integrated and engaged.

5. Get Your Band Noticed

If you want to be taken seriously as a music performer and get noticed by millions, SoundCloud can certainly help.

The impressive amount of users willing to find a new sound, the ease of social sharing, and the community engagement are ideal for up-and-coming performers.

And let's not forget that artists and representatives from major labels frequently visit the site to find what's new in music. For instance, Snoop Dogg found Iza Lach, Post Malone was discovered by Republic Records after his song White Iverson amassed plenty of plays, Kodak Black was co-signed by Drake and also inked a deal with Atlantic Records, and the list goes on.

6. SoundCloud Pro: Make Money From Your Music

Let's not forget about one of the major reasons SoundCloud has so many active users—promotion.

There are plenty of up-and-coming producers, DJs, and indie bands on the site sharing their music in the hope of striking it big, and they can do so with one of SoundCloud's pro plans.

Two premium plans are available: SoundCloud Pro Unlimited and SoundCloud Repost.

The cheapest plan is Repost ($2.50/month). It lets you distribute your music to all the major music services, provides access to promotional tools such as SoundCloud's discovery pages, and lets you set which countries your music is available in.

The Pro Unlimited plan ($12/month) adds the ability to accept fan donations, direct messaging for fans, listener insights, and more.

Check out our list of the best places to sell your music online if you need some alternative options.

7. Music Downloads and Offline Listening

SoundCloud offers both offline listening and the ability to download songs so you can add them to your own library (though the features are not available on all songs; the uploader has to enable it on a case-by-case basis).

Downloading songs is ideal for people who like to maintain their own locally-saved music collection, whereas offline listing is great for long trips or when you're expecting to be away from Wi-Fi or cell coverage for a prolonged period.

If you are a creator, you can toggle the two options on and off by heading to a track's edit page, clicking on the Permissions toggle, and marking the checkboxes next to Offline Listening and Enable Downloads as needed.

8. Smartphone Apps Are Available

In addition to the web app, SoundCloud also offers an iPhone app and Android app.

You can't comment on songs or do much in terms of producing music with the apps, but everything else is there. You can easily listen to tracks and find fresh music to indulge in at a later time, follow your friends, and share music.

There is also a SoundCloud app in the Microsoft Store, but we would suggest giving it a wide berth. The app is still listed as being in beta and has not received an update for a couple of years. The web app is better.

Download: SoundCloud for Android | iOS (Free)

Why Not Try SoundCloud Today?

With 270 million users and counting, there's a chance you already use SoundCloud. If not, you should consider it. SoundCloud is a truly impressive platform to find new music, listen to your favorite tracks, or try to get your own creations heard.

It is free to make a basic account as either a listener or a musician, and you can start listening and uploading right away.


The 7 Best Sites to Make Your Own Online Polls

Online polls are a great way to gauge the public's opinion on a matter. But you don't have to be a polling agency to carry out research. It's easy to make your own poll for any topic with free poll-making sites.

But which services are the best for creating online polls? Keep reading to find out.

1. Strawpoll

Strawpoll is one of the most well-known poll-making sites.

When you visit the site for the first time, you'll see the standard poll form which you can customize with your question and as many answers as you need. Its polls can allow for a single response or multiple-choice answers, depending on your needs.

Strawpoll also offers spam protection. You can choose to monitor for IP address duplication or browser cookie duplication. Using one of the options will improve the reliability of your poll.

When you have created your poll, you just need to share the poll's URL so people can fill it in.

Neither you nor your poll's respondents need to make an account on Strawpoll to use the site. If you wish, however, you can sign in with Twitch. By making an account, you can save drafts and easily revisit the results of any previous polls you made.

Overall, Strawpoll is a great tool for creating social media surveys.

2. SurveyMonkey

SurveyMonkey is a much more professional polling tool than Strawpoll. It is geared towards political research, event feedback, course feedback, market research, and other related fields.

However, despite the extra features, you can still make a poll with up to 10 questions for free—though you will need to make an account to get started.

If you want access to extra features, you will need to pay. Individual plans start at $32/month and run to $99/month.

The $32/month plan offers an unlimited number of surveys and questions, up to 5,000 responses per month, customizable branding, data exports, data analysis tools, A/B testing, and the ability to accept payments.

3. Poll Maker

Poll Maker is more similar to Strawpoll; it's an easy-to-use free app that can create a shareable questionnaire in a few seconds.

The tool does have a few more options than Strawpoll. For example, once you have entered your question and list of responses, you can edit the theme (several defaults are available, as well as customization options).

You can also set a limit on how many votes per hour users can enter, secure your poll with a unique code, choose whether to allow multiple answers, show or hide the results to participants, and add a way for people the enter their own "Other" answers.

If you click on the Advanced tab, you can go even deeper. There are options to set the timezone, choose privacy levels, and even edit the buttons' text.

4. Easy Polls

Another free web app for making polls is Easy Polls (though a premium version is also available). Once again, the tool has quite a lot of options that you can dig into and use to customize the poll for your needs.

Some of the most notable options include:

  • Button Text: You can change the text of the Vote, See Results, Total Votes, and Voters buttons.
  • Poll Width: Set the size of your questionnaire so it looks good on your site or blog.
  • Results: Choose whether to show/hide results, total vote counts, and vote percentages.
  • Extra Customization: Decide if the results should display automatically once the poll closes, choose whether to display Facebook comments and Like buttons, and take your pick from 22 different themes.

If you need more powerful options, consider the premium plan. It adds IP address filtering, location tracking, and ad-free polls. The premium options cost $0.99 per poll.

5. SurveySparrow

SurveySparrow is one of SurveyMonkey's leading competitors. It's a professional app that is primarily aimed at business users, though there is a free personal tier for individuals.

The free tier lets you receive up to 100 survey responses per month and provides up to 10 questions on each survey.

You also get custom reports filters, access to more than 1,500 app integrations via Zapier, 100 API hits per day, and the ability to limit the number of responses per user.

The cheapest paid tier costs $19/month. It adds unlimited questions and increases the response limit to 1,000 per month. Other features like closing dates, Google Sheets integrations, data exports, phone number validation, and support for widgets and QR codes also become available.

6. Google Forms


For anyone who is heavily invested in the Google ecosystem of apps, it makes sense to turn to Google Forms for your polling needs.

Polls on Google Forms do require a little bit of time to set up, so they are less suitable for snap questionnaires on social media and among groups of friends. However, if you are looking for a balance between professionalism and ease-of-use, it is a great option.

The beauty of Google Forms is the number of methodologies it allows. You can choose from multiple-choice questions, checkboxes, dropdown lists, linear scales, grids, and more. You can also provide text entry fields, file uploads, as well as date and time stamps. There is even an option to embed images and videos in your survey.

All Google Forms responses will be available through your Google Drive account.

7. Zoho Survey

The final survey tool on our list is Zoho Surveys. Once again, this a professional-grade app that has a free tier for individual users.

It offers more than 25 types of questions and features, such as skip logic and piping. This allows you to create much more detailed surveys than what is possible on apps like Strawpoll and Easy Polls.

The tool also integrates with Zoho's other apps to allow you to manage your survey across different business areas. For example, social media outreach and email campaigns work seamlessly with the survey tool.

Once the survey has finished, Zoho provides a mountain of customizable reports and data analysis tools to help you make sense of the data you have collected.

You can even buy responses. Just set up your preferred demographics and Zoho will take care of making sure you get answers.

Choose the Right Survey Site for You

As you can see, each survey site focuses on different types of users and needs. Choosing the right app is important in order to draw the right conclusions.

Just make sure that you fully understand all the features and limitations before you launch your survey to the public.


How to Watch the 2021 Super Bowl LV With or Without Cable

The Super Bowl is upon us once again. The 55th edition of the tournament sees defending champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Florida on Sunday, February 7, 2021.

Kickoff is at 6.30 pm ET and will mark the first time a team has contested the Super Bowl in its own stadium.

The game, which expected to bring in more than 150 million viewers around the world, is sure to be the hottest TV ticket of the weekend.

But how can you watch the match live? Here is how to watch Super Bowl LV around the world, without or without cable.

How to Watch Super Bowl LV in the United States

In the United States, CBS has the English-language rights to the 2021 Super Bowl. The game was originally due to be on NBC, but the broadcaster swapped with CBS to prevent a TV clash with their 2022 Winter Olympics coverage next year.

CBS is a free-to-air channel and reaches 97% of households in the United States, meaning almost everyone in the country needs nothing more than a TV aerial to be able to tune in. All cable subscribers will also be able to find it in their list of channels.

And if you can't get to a TV during the match, there are plenty of other ways to watch the game online.

If you have a web browser, you just need to go to the CBS Sports website. The game will be shown live, with pre- and post-match programming also available.

How to Watch the Super Bowl on Mobile

Sadly, mobile users might find it slightly less straightforward to watch Super Bowl LV. The game will be shown on the CBS Sports app, but you will need to be a CBS All Access subscriber to be able to watch.

The good news is that you can sign up for a free seven-day trial of the app and tune in. Just don't forget to cancel afterward; CBS All Access plans start at $6/month.

Lastly, you could consider online streaming services that offer CBS. They include the sports-centric Fubo TV, as well as Hulu and Sling.

Spanish-language coverage of the Super Bowl in the US will be broadcast on ESPN Deportes. It is available to cable subscribers who have the necessary package, as well as in various Spanish-language add-ons from streaming providers.

How to Watch the Super Bowl in Canada

In Canada, the 2021 Super Bowl will be broadcast live on CTV.

Like CBS, it is a free-to-air channel that is available to the majority of Canadian households via an antenna. It is also a staple channel with all cable packages.

You can watch the game on CTV's website, but you will need credentials from a cable provider to be able to sign in.

How to Watch the Super Bowl in the UK

In the United Kingdom, two networks will air Super Bowl LV simultaneously: the BBC and Sky Sports.

The BBC is screening the game on BBC 1, meaning it will be on a free-to-air channel around the country. Indeed, it is not the only NFL game you can watch without cable.

If you are a Sky Sports subscriber and would prefer to watch its version of the coverage, head to the Sky Sports NFL channel before kickoff.

BBC 1 is available through BBC iPlayer, so you can also watch Super Bowl LV for free using a web browser or the smartphone app.

Sky Sports subscribers can watch on the Sky Sports website and the Sky Go smartphone app.

How to Watch Super Bowl LV Around the World

If you live outside the US, Canada, or the UK, you might find that the Super Bowl is not on free-to-air TV.

Remember, you can always use a VPN to circumvent the geoblocking. We recommend Express VPN and CyberGhost. Free trials are available for both services.

Make sure you let us know who you think will win on our social media channels, and enjoy the game!


Supercharge Your Typing Speed Today With Lightkey Pro

Typing is a chore. Sure, for most people it's still faster than using a pen and paper, but it's also prone to typos, missing words, and other errors.

Wouldn't it be great if you could eliminate those issues while still increasing the speed at which you can type? Thankfully, there are apps out there that will let you do exactly that.

One such app is Lightkey Pro. But what exactly does the app do and why should you use it?

Let's take a closer look.

What Is Lightkey Pro?

Lightkey provides AI-powered text predictions as you type, allowing you to type more quickly and avoid spelling errors.

The Lightkey app works with all the web apps and software that you use every day, including the Microsoft Office suite, Outlook and Gmail, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Slack, Asana, Reddit, and Twitter.

If the apps you use most frequently are not natively supported, you can install Lightkey Anywhere. Once installed, holding Alt and clicking in an editable field will enable the predictive feature.

Best of all, the app works in 85 languages. It's perfect for bilingual users as well as people who are in the process of learning a new foreign language.

How Does Lightkey Work?

Over time, Lightkey will learn your typing patterns and start to offer a customized real-time list of words it thinks you are about to type next. The suggestions are based on your own unique vocabulary. Up to 12 words are offered each time. According to Lightkey's own research, it means you can write an email up to four times faster.

Lightkey also utilizes "content domains." They allow the app to offer relevant terms based on the type of document that you are working with. Some of the available content domains include technology, business, finance, law, and academia.

It is also worth noting that Lightkey is privacy-focused. It will never submit any of your content to the cloud, thus making sure you stay safe from hackers and other prying eyes.

Buy Lightkey Pro Today

If you think you could benefit from using Lightkey, we have some good news—MakeUseOf has teamed up with the developer to offer our readers a special discount.

That means you can grab yourself a lifetime subscription to the service for just $80. The regular price is $170, so you'll secure yourself an impressive 52 percent discount.

Sadly, the app is not available on Mac; you should only buy this deal if you have a Windows machine that you want to install it on.

All future updates and additional language packs will be included in your package as they become available.


The 10 Best CES Products You Can Buy Right Now

CES often grabs headlines for its wacky concept designs and prototype products. But while those types of devices are fun to read about and play with, the sad reality is that very few of them ever make it all the way to market.

Add in all the companies that unveil their "coming this year" gadgets, and it can be really hard to tell which CES products you can actually go to a shop and buy right now.

Don't worry; we've done the hard work for you. Here are the top 10 new CES 2021 devices you can purchase today.

1. Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro Earbuds

Anker has been working hard to develop a presence in the headphones and earbuds sector over the last few years.

The latest addition to its product lineup is the Liberty Air 2 Pro earbuds. They were only unveiled for the first time at CES, but you can buy them on Amazon right now.

Some of the best features include three active noise cancellation (ANC) modes (Transport, Outdoor, and Indoor), 11mm drivers, and an accompanying smartphone app that lets you customize the sound.

2. Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

On the final day of CES, Samsung held its annual Unpacked event. The biggest news was the release of the Galaxy S21 smartphone, however, the South Korean giant also made waves in the earbuds space with the official release of the new Galaxy Buds Pro.

They have a release price of $200 and offer ANC, a voice pickup unit to improve the quality of your calls, automatic device switching, and an IPX7 waterproof rating.

You can buy the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro on Amazon today.

3. MaskFone Face Mask

Face masks were in vogue during CES 2021. Of course, Razer's futuristic concept design stole the show, but if you're looking for a model you can pick up today, check out the new $50 mask from MaskFone.

As the name suggests, the face mask doubles as a phone. That means you won't need to take off your protection to have a conversation—a big plus for people who have to regularly field calls in airports, trains, subways, and other enclosed spaces.

The mask itself has built-in earbuds (though they are removable for when you need to wash the mask), as well as playback controls. The controls themselves don't do anything, you'll need to align the markings with the in-line remote on your headphones.

You can buy the MaskFone face mask right now.

4. Miiskin Digital Health Platform

Miiskin is a smartphone app and health platform that is designed to help you spot skin cancer early. It will capture the necessary images of your body, and then compare and contrast them with previous images so you can identify changes.

You can subscribe to the app today for $25/year. Download the app from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store to get started.

5. Razer Blade Pro 17

There was no shortage of new laptops at this year's CES event. We saw a refreshed Envy 14 from HP, the new Lenovo IdeaPad 5G, a range of ThinkBooks, and multiple new devices from MSI.

However, while all these new laptops will be available within weeks, the best new CES laptop that you can buy at the time of writing is undoubtedly the new Razer Blade 17 Pro. The first units are due to start landing on doorsteps on January 26.

Right now, you can only buy the Razer Blade 17 Pro on Razer's website. We assume it will soon be available on Amazon as well.

6. Amazfit's GTE 2e and GTS 2e Smartwatches

Amazfit used CES 2021 to release two new smartwatches—the GTR 2e and the GTS 2e. They are follow-ups to last year's GTR 2 and GTS 2.

Both new watches have fewer features than their predecessors, but they also have a lower price point. Missing features include Wi-Fi connectivity and internal storage.

The two watches have each gone on sale on Amazon and on Amazfit's own website.

7. Mio Cyclo Discover

Mio was at CES 2021 to introduce its all-new GPS devices for cyclists—the Cyclo Discover series.

Two devices are available, the regular Discover edition, as well as a more expensive Discover Plus model. Both will clip onto your bike to provide directions.

However, the Cyclo Discover's best feature isn't the GPS, but rather the NeverMiss and Surprise Me functionality.

NeverMiss will alert you to places of interest on your ride, and will then provide a QR code for you to scan and find out more information.

SurpriseMe lets you enter a time or distance into the device and it will then provide you with a new route based on your parameters.

The Cyclo Discover series is only supported in Europe. You can buy the device on Mio's website.

8. An Alexa-Enabled Microwave From Sharp

Sharp was one of the first companies out of the block at CES 2021. It used the CES warm-up event, Techfluence, to unveil multiple new smart kitchen devices.

For many people, the most eye-catching release was a new Alexa-enabled microwave. The Alexa integration means you can use your voice to defrost meat, start/stop the microwave, set the type of food you're cooking, and more. Some third-party Alexa apps are also supported.

You can pick up the new Sharp microwave on Amazon.

9. Jabra Elite 85t Earbuds

The Jabra Elite 85t earbuds have been available since October 2020, but the company was at CES to release four new colors (gold, copper, black, and grey). At launch, they were only available in titanium.

Considered to be some of the best noise-canceling earbuds on the market thanks to their dedicated ANC chip, they are IPX4-rated for water resistance, are compatible with Qi wireless chargers, and provide 25 hours of battery life via the carry case.

The earbuds are available for purchase on Amazon.

10. Flex IO Sensor

The last product on our list is the new Flex IO Sensor from

This sensor differs from most smart home security sensors thanks to its support for LTE-M. That means it hooks up to a cell signal rather than your Wi-Fi, and thus greatly increases the range of your system. The device is perfect for securing valuable possessions in sheds, garages, outhouses, and gardens.

The sensor is available to buy right now from selected security suppliers.

Catch Up With More CES News

If you'd like to see more analysis of CES 2021, make sure you also check out our list of the weirdest gadgets at CES 2021 as well as our round-up of the best smart home products at the event.

Keep following MakeUseOf for more post-event coverage over the coming days.


7 Great Sites Where You Can Sell Your Own Music

If you're a budding musician who is just starting out, you probably don't have a manager, a label, or a distributor. It's fine—you'll get there.

In the meantime, why not sell your music online without any help? Who needs an agent anyway...

1. Bandcamp

If you are looking for a platform to sell your music and your merch, have a look at Bandcamp.

You can set your price for any of your work, then Bandcamp takes 15 percent of the total fees for digital sales and 10 percent of merch sales. The digital fee drops to 10 percent once you've reached $5,000 in revenue.

All the money from sales goes directly to you. So, when someone pays $10 for your album, all the money goes to your PayPal account and you owe Bandcamp $1.50 for the 15 percent cut.

However, Bandcamp doesn't need the money right there and then. Instead, Bandcamp only takes money when a sale comes along that's less or equal to the balance you owe. For example, if the amount you owe is $10, the next $10 sale goes to Bandcamp, and then you're back in the black.

2. ReverbNation

ReverbNation is no longer a mere storefront for your band. With a range of membership options, it can either be a shop, a distribution platform, or even a booking tool for landing yourself gigs.

Any band or singer can make an artist page on the platform for free. A free profile allows you to upload songs, videos, and photos. It also lets you sell your music directly from your profile page, access the gig finder, and run email and social media marketing campaigns.

The basic plan ($13/month) adds industry opportunities, press kit creation, and support for large song uploads. Meanwhile, the premium $20/month package adds digital distribution and music publishing admin tools.

Digital distribution lets you get your music on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Apple Music, and more, and is thus essential for many new bands.

3. CD Baby

CD Baby retired its music store in March 2020 so it could focus entirely on helping artists distribute their content.

You can use the portal to upload tracks to more than 150 streaming services. That includes all the big names like Spotify, TIDAL, and Apple Music, as well as dozens of smaller and more niche apps. CD Baby also claims to be able to get your music in physical music stores around the world, but information about the process is a little thin.

Other features of the service include access to (a major marketing tool in the music world), collection of worldwide publishing royalties, direct song registration with global royalty collection societies, and weekly payments on your revenues.

Lastly, CD Baby is great for bands that want to create their own professional CDs and vinyl records to sell at gigs, as you can use the service to order physical CDs.

4. Sellfy

Sellfy is one of the leading e-commerce sites for creators. It lets you sell any type of downloadable digital product (including music), as well as your associated merch.

The service lets you build your own online storefront, or even embed your store on your band's existing website.

Most impressively, however, Sellfy lets you turn SoundCloud into an online store for your band. Just upload the tracks you want to sell onto the Sellfy backend, then add the URL to the corresponding track on your SoundCloud account.

Sellfy is a subscription-based service. The entry-level plan, which will be fine for almost all users, costs $19/month.

Related: How to Quickly Create an Online Store Using Shopify

5. TuneCore

TuneCore is another online distributor. Indeed, it is arguably the biggest competition for CD Baby.

The process works in a similar way. You just need to upload your music to the TuneCore portal and it will be sent to iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, YouTube Music, and more than 150 other smaller services and stores. In total, you can use TuneCore to get your music into more than 100 countries.

TuneCore offers either an ad-hoc or subscription-based payment model. To publish a one-off single, it costs $10 per year. On the other hand, an album costs $30 per year. The upside of the subscription model is that you keep 100 percent of your streaming revenues and royalties—TuneCore does not take a cut.

6. Ditto Music

Ditto Music lets you promote and monetize your music online across all the major streaming services and music stores. If you only want to distribute a single artist or band, a one-year membership plan costs $19/year. Ditto will not keep any of your royalties.

You will get free ISRC and UPC codes for every track you release and can withdraw all your earnings directly to your bank account.

Other features include smart links, pre-save links to use before the release date, and registration for eligibility for major global music charts, such as the UK Top 40 and American Billboard.

You will even get registration on VEVO, allowing you to start earning royalties from the world’s biggest music video site.

7. Fiverr

Don't forget that there is an entire subset of the music-selling industry that caters to making music on demand for clients. For example, perhaps they want a new jingle for their latest TV ad or a background sound for an event.

Even if you are a regular band, you can still take those types of gigs—especially in the early days when money might be tight.

Fiverr is one of the most well-known freelance sites, and there are plenty of potential clients on there who are looking for musicians.

What About iTunes and Amazon?

Amazon does not accept musicians without a distributor, so you will have to go with a service like CD Baby that will handle everything for you. Officially, Amazon says it supports seven distributors: CD Baby, Rebeat, Ingrooves, Redeye, The Orchard, TuneCore, and Virtual Label.

iTunes allows you to do everything on your own, but you need at least 20 albums in your catalog. Unless you have been recording for years, you might still be forced to use a distributor.

Don't Forget to Create Your Own Site

It doesn't matter how well-known your band is, you should always have your own website. That way, you can sell music to fans without the need for any middlemen or subscription fees. If you're not sure where to start, it doesn't hurt to consult a web developer.


How to Remove the DRM on Any Ebook You Own

Digital Rights Management, or DRM, is specifically designed to control the use, modification, and distribution of any copyrighted material, and is now a common feature of everything from ebooks to music files.

Although it's easy to understand why the rights holders are keen to protect their work, as a consumer DRM is an extremely frustrating aspect of modern life.

In this article, we explain why removing DRM restrictions is important and show you how you can eliminate them on your own ebooks.

Why Remove DRM?

Underpinning the DRM problem is the issue of media ownership. Music, movies, and books that you buy from companies like Amazon are not technically yours—you have merely been granted a license to use the content.

Put yourself in the shoes of one Amazon user, who in 2012 had her entire Kindle library (and Amazon account) permanently deleted for a supposed breach of terms. We don't know whether she did anything wrong, but we do know she was several hundred dollars out of pocket. All her beloved books were irrevocably gone, with no way to retrieve them.

Here's what Amazon said in an email to her at the time:

Per our Conditions of Use which state in part: and its affiliates reserve the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders at their sole discretion.While we are unable to provide detailed information on how we link related accounts, please know that we have reviewed your account on the basis of the information provided and regret to inform you that it will not be reopened.

The problem could have been entirely avoided if she had removed the DRM restrictions.

Why? Because she could have backed up her files on her local machine. Amazon might still have deleted her account, but the content that she spent so much money on would still be in her possession.

Different Types of Ebook DRM

Generally, ebooks use four different DRM schemes. They are:

  1. Adobe's ADEPT DRM: It can be applied to EPUBs and PDFs, most third-party ebook readers will be able to read it. Books purchased from Barnes and Noble use this format.
  2. Amazon DRM: Amazon's format is applied to AZW8, KF8, and Mobipocket files. Again, most mainstream readers can understand it.
  3. Apple FairPlay DRM: Apple's approach can only be applied to EPUB files and can only be read by Apple's iBooks app.
  4. Marlin DRM: An open industry group that includes Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, and Sony developed the Marlin system.

How to Remove DRM From Most Ebooks

Given the diversity of ebook publishers and ebook file formats, it's not surprising that there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. There are many ways to remove ebooks' DRM.

If you buy your books through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or the other typical well-known ebook stores, the best solution is Calibre.

Calibre is a free and open-source ebook library management application that's packed full of useful features. For this process, you'll need Calibre and apprenticealf's DRM removal plugins.

Install the Software

Install the software and fire up the app for the first time. When prompted, select which folders contain your existing ebook purchases. If you don't have one yet, create it.

Next, you'll be asked to select your ereader device. The list includes all the major manufacturers. Don't worry if you have more than one device, you can change this setting to alternate between them later.

If you want to be able to send ebooks from Calibre straight to your device, fill in your associated emails on the next screen. For the purposes of the DRM removal process, you can skip this step.

Finally, click Finish and the app will boot.

Install the Plugins

Calibre supports a variety of plugins that perform different functions. To remove the DRM, you need apprenticealf's DRM Removal Tool for Ebooks. The latest version is available for download from GitHub.

Download the file and unzip its contents. Now head back to Calibre and click the Preferences icon on the top menu.

Click Plugins on the bottom row of the pop-up screen, then select Load Plugin from File in the bottom right-hand corner.

Find your unzipped file and navigate to DeDRM_calibre_plugin > DeDRM_calibre_plugin. Click Yes on the virus warning that pops up, and you'll be shown a message that confirms the successful installation.

Per the on-screen message, restart the Calibre app.

If you own a Kindle, there is one final step. In Calibre, go to Preferences > Plugins and expand the menu underneath File Type Plugins.

Double-click on the DeDRM listing, choose eInk Kindle ebooks, and add your device's serial number. On most Kindles, you can find your serial number within the device's settings menu.

Remove the DRM

The tool will only work when you import books into Calibre for the first time. It will not work if you're converting books between formats. Therefore, if you have already imported DRM books you'll need to remove them from the app and re-import them.

The DRM removal is the simplest part of the whole process. Just drag-and-drop your ebooks from your e-reader (or local drive) into Calibre's main window; the software will automatically delete the DRM. If you're pulling them from a Kindle, drag all the files associated with each book and click None when warned about duplicates.

How to Remove DRM From Apple Books

Unfortunately, Apple users keen to remove the DRM from their ebooks face a much more limited choice of tools.

The only reliable method is to use the TunesKit iBook DRM removal tool. This will set you back $30, but if you've got thousands of ebooks, it's a price worth paying.

After you've downloaded and installed the app, you'll need to download all your iBooks to your local machine.

Once you've got them saved, just drag-and-drop them into the DRM removal software and click Convert. Simple, effective, but unfortunately not free.

How to Remove DRM From OverDrive Ebooks

Many public libraries in the United States use the OverDrive system to let you rent digital copies of books. Books that you borrow on OverDrive use Adobe's DRM tool—but don't worry, it is still possible to remove the DRM from library books.

Firstly, you need to download a copy of Adobe Digital Editions and open the ebook you want to edit within the app.

Next, download a copy of the ebook DRM Removal tool. Open the app, select the EPUB file you want to work with from the Digital Editions folder, and hit the Remove button. Give the process a few seconds to complete and you will have removed the OverDrive DRM. You should be able to send the ebook to your Kindle and read it without issues.

Remember, even though it's not illegal, removing the DRM on library books is certainly morally questionable. Think about your actions before you begin.


5 Real Benefits of Cutting the Cable TV Cord

The cord-cutting landscape has changed immeasurably from the way it looked just a few years ago. Live sport and 24/7 news channels are now commonplace, while the amount of video-on-demand content on offer is larger than ever.

It begs the question: do you even need a cable TV plan anymore? With cable subscriber numbers continuing to plummet, it seems that for more and more people, the answer to that question is "no."

If you've still not taken the plunge, keep reading. Here are the top benefits of cutting the cord.

1. You Will Save Money

Cable prices have grown exponentially in the last decade. Indeed, cable is now comfortably the most expensive "utility" in American households. According to research by DecisionData, the average household cable package in the US was $217/month in 2020.

In comparison, the same household spends just $205/month on all other utilities combined (including electricity, gas, water, sewage, garbage).

Considering that an entry-level Netflix plan costs just $9/month (and even the four-screen, ultra-HD plan is only $18/month), it is little wonder that an increasing number of people are deciding that traditional cable is a service they can do without.

Remember, you can even cut the cord without paying a cent in subscription fees. Many networks broadcast their channels live on YouTube, while legal IPTV apps like Pluto provide access to a substantial number of free feeds.

2. You Can Watch in Any Room

A cable TV plan is fixed to the address where you live. In most cases, it is even tied to a specific room. If you want the service to be available on other screens around your home, you will need to pay a significant extra fee on a room-by-room basis.

While it's true that some cable services are beginning to offer a streaming option for their services, they often have notable drawbacks.

For example, you will typically not be able to use an HDMI cable or Chromecast to send the picture from your computer to your TV, and the apps will not be compatible with streaming boxes such as the Nvidia Shield and Apple TV.

That's because cable companies still want to be able to charge people for the multi-room add-ons; offering an any-screen/any-device streaming app would mean people would no longer pay the extra fee.

3. You Can Use Streaming Services While Traveling

Another big plus for cutting the cord is the portability you will gain; you can use your streaming apps anywhere in the country. If you have a reliable VPN, you can even watch from anywhere in the world.

If you spend a lot of time traveling for work or pleasure, you'll quickly appreciate what a boon this is. Instead of being stuck watching foreign-language cable TV every evening, you can binge-watch the latest series of Vikings just as easily as you could from your own sofa.

Related: Emby vs. Plex: Which Is Better?

It's not just video-on-demand and live TV streaming services that offer this advantage. If you have decided to build up your own collection of content in lieu of a streaming app, you can use an app like Plex or Emby to tune into your movies and TV series remotely.

The benefits also apply if you move to a new house. There's no need to contact the cable company and pay a reinstallation fee at your new abode; you can keep watching without a drop in service.

4. You Can Watch More of the Content You Love

If you've ever had a cable TV plan, you will know just how many dross live TV channels are out there. Most people will watch the same small handful of networks and completely ignore 90% of the channels on the platform.

The beauty of cutting the cord is that you can take an à la carte approach to choosing content. For example, if most of what you watch is classic British TV and live sport, you can subscribe to either Acorn or Britbox along with the sports-centric Fubo TV.

Similarly, if you like US TV, you can buy whichever of the Sling packages has the channels you enjoy or subscribe to Hulu and use add-ons to customize channel line-up.

You could even subscribe directly to a network's own streaming service if they have a large amount of content you enjoy. For example, HBO, STARZ, and SHOWTIME all have standalone plans; you don't need a cable subscription to tune in.

Taking this approach might leave you with less total content than a cable package, but it will lead to a much better ratio of content you're likely to watch.

5. You Can Rotate Between Streaming Providers

Have you ever tried to cancel cable TV? It's a painful process. Cable providers will use every trick available to try and strong-arm you into keeping your plan. Their tactics include long contracts, exorbitant cancellation fees, endless hidden costs, and threats about other services you might use, such as the internet and fixed phone lines.

And the tactics work; many people simply give up and resign themselves to being tied into the provider for eternity.

But if you can break free of the shackles, a world of possibilities awaits. None of the major streaming or IPTV providers will force you into a long contract. Instead, you can cancel at any time, and the service will simply stop at the end of the current billing period.

The upshot of the lack of contracts is extreme flexibility for users. You can subscribe to Netflix for a month, binge-watch your way through all the shows you want to catch up on, then cancel your plan and repeat the process with a different provider. Over a year, you can easily keep your monthly costs under $20 while still not missing any of your favorite shows.

Is Cable TV Dead?

A study from OpenX and The Harris Poll in mid-2019 found that a massive 52% of cord-cutters did not miss anything about cable TV once they had canceled. That's ominous news for an industry that's seen subscriber numbers drop by more than 30% in the last decade.

Cable's one selling point used to be live sport and news, but even those two areas are no longer under the sole purview of cable companies. Businesses like the NFL, NBA, and English Premier League are quickly realizing that their future lies in streaming rather than cable.

So, is cable dead? Perhaps not yet, but it certainly appears to be heading onto its last legs. Make sure you take advantage of the benefits of canceling cable and cut your cord today.