Nowadays there is much reported about the rise of illegally copied music being made available on the Internet. However, there is also plenty of music on the web that is free and legal. In this post we look at ten sites or services that offer free legal music to download.
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ArtistServer has been around since 2001, albeit under the name ElectronicScene.com. In 2005 they transformed the site to widen their scope and incorporate social networking features. At its core is a database of over 7,000 songs that can be downloaded for free. An artist’s catalog also has an RSS feed that can be subscribed to like any other feed, allowing the user to keep up to date with any new additions. Photos, videos and blogs from artists complete this interesting site.
Live Music Archive
The Live Music Archive has a large collection of live recordings from a wide range of artists, from David Gray to Mogwai, and there is also a lot of music from lesser known bands. The site runs a policy which does not adhere to any particular set of laws, and states so in its Terms and Conditions, and makes the user responsible for making sure that the content is legal in their own country.
Hand in hand with the Live Music Archive is archive.org’s collection of regular mp3s, including a good selection of out-of-copyright music. Although only hardcore fans of pre-1950s music will find this interesting for now, I expect this to become more and more important as time goes on — the early Beatles tracks are due to become public domain in only five years! Update: aside from out of copyright music, there are lots of contemporary tracks available, released under a Creative Commons license.
Epitonic has a great selection of free tunes, ranging from Grandaddy and Mercury Rev, through to Carl Cox, Mr Scruff, Badly Drawn Boy and TV On The Radio. The site is a little confusing at first, but once you work out where the genre and artist lists are, its fairly simple from there on in. Epitonic also has a large number of online radio stations based on several genres and subgenres that are worth a listen.
The mighty GarageBand, the unsigned band promotion and social review network, has proved to be the catalyst for success for a few bands in the States. After uploading their tracks on GarageBand and then being favourably rated, they have gone on to be offered contracts and even made it to the Billboard charts (the band “10 Years” hit number one with “Wasteland” in 2006 by doing just this). The site covers a wide range of genres and offers a large number of tunes for download. The majority of artists will be unknown to most people, due to the nature of the site, but the review and rating system makes it easy to pinpoint and listen to the most popular tracks.
CNET’s Download.com offers a music section which combines an online store and a repository for free and less widely known music. Fortunately they’ve realised that a lot of people come by solely for the free tracks and have provided a direct link. Again, the music is generally from unknown and unsigned artists, but the range and quantity of material here is staggering — at the last count it stood at 75,425 free MP3s!
Bit of a blind recommendation this one, but SpiralFrog has just entered limited beta, with a view to launch later this year. Its proposed model is interesting — downloads will be free, from a number of labels (Universal seems to be the biggest backer at the moment) with a potential catalogue of 700,000+ tracks, but users will be made to view advertisements while each track is downloading. I dont know how this will work in practice (i.e. will download speeds be throttled back to give more advertising time) but in theory it sounds like a good deal. Unfortunately the service is only available in the US and Canada at the moment, but I expect it to be available in other countries if it takes off in North America.
(Update: see our full SpiralFrog review)
The popular one-stop-shop has a small selection of tracks available for download for free. These are changed regularly, but are often by known artists.
Its also worth mentioning that Apple’s music store also offers free tracks, usually by up and coming artists. The list varies depending on which country you are in. [Ed. this website keeps track of what music is being offered for free on iTunes each week.]
eMusic is a digital music store that doesn’t offer free downloads per se, but I thought it was worth including because some of the introductory offers let you download 100 free tracks in the first month, after which you’re free to can cancel your membership and it wont cost a penny!
Note: We’ve probably only scratched the surface, so if you know of any more places on the web where you can download free and legal music, please add those in the comments.