February 8 2008

Sources For Free & Legal Music

With organizations such as the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) making it tougher and tougher for consumers to stay inside the confines of the law in the ways they obtain music. So where can one turn for free, but legal, music? I’ve gathered together 14 resources for you to discover totally new music, enjoy some (legal) downloads, and listen to streaming music from all over the world.

(And I would be remiss if I didn’t admit this article is heavily influenced an inspired by my work at… I believe I can only think in list form now…)

Music Discovery Sites

Sometimes you just don’t know what the heck you’re in the mood for, or maybe you just want to find something “new”, but like the bands you already like. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, you really don’t have to think anymore. There are numerous sites nowadays that will help you find new music. – Like The Hype Machine below, is a music blog aggregator that brings together the blogs of musicians, some with free MP3s you can download to sample their music. – Enter the artists you like, and get recommendations from other uses, and matches from 100’s of record labels that have provided the site with legal, DRM-free, MP3s you can download that are similar to the bands you entered. – The Hype Machine is an aggregator for MP3-related blogs and features numerous independent bands. Great way to find a bunch of new bands in one easily accessible place. – Part social network, part music discovery, takes your play history from installed music players on your computer and starts suggesting other music you might like. You can also just type in the name of an artist you like and build from there. – This has to be one of my favorite sites just because it’s fun to play with. First you tell the site what your current music mood is, it then will give you a starting song and you can build off of that to find related songs, just following along and along for as long as you like. If you find something you really like, there are also handy links to look it up on eBay, Amazon, and iTunes. – Pandora asks you to enter the name of an artist you like, and then using the “music genome project”, it calculates traits of their work. This will then build a “radio station” that first plays a song by your selected artist, and asks you if this song represents their work to your satisfaction. As the station progresses, it finds similar music and asks you to vote if you like it or not, so the more you use a station, the more attune to you it will get. The cool bonus is they now offer Wi-Fi devices so you can listen your stations anywhere in your house and without a computer.

Free Downloadable Music

It’s true, there are free & legal resources for downloading music. Sure, you may not find the biggest name artists there, but you may find some great up-and-coming artists if you dig around. – iTunes offers free songs every once in awhile, and they are prominently displayed on the opening page, but did you know there’s more than one a week? Did you also know they have free audiobooks and videos? Well, ItsFreeDownloads keeps track of all this for you in one handy centralized locale.

Ruckus.comI list this one somewhat begrudgingly. If you have a .edu email address, then you get music for free, but you need to renew the Digital Rights Management (DRM) license once a year, and when you leave school, you can continue to renew it for $9 a month. The downloads only run on Windows 2000 and above, the songs don’t work on iPods, and you can’t burn them to CDs, but, hey, they’re free and legal.UPDATE: Ruckus called it quits.

SpiralFrog.comIf you’re looking for just one or two songs, this may be the best solution for you. All of the songs are “free” in that you only need to watch an advertisement before you’re allowed to download. If you’re looking for a full album, it would probably get fairly annoying, but for just those one or two good songs from a record (which is about all there is now, this would be a great way for you to do it. UPDATED: As of March 19th, 2009, Spiral Frog has closed due to financial issues.

Streaming Internet Radio

There are numerous resources on the net for free, streaming, music, but I’ve gathered just a few of my favorites to help you cut through the chaff.

AOL Music

AOL Music – While the name AOL gets mixed reactions from the denizens of the Internet, there is no denying their free music streams are nice. It may have to do with it being mainly powered by XM Satellite Radio, but it’s free and easy to use.


iTunes – It’s amazing how many people never notice the “Radio” area in iTunes. Besides synching your iPod, and shopping the iTunes Store, the program gives you access to nearly 1,800 streams of different styles and quality bitrates from all over the world. – This site is a bit different in that will help you locate the websites of radio stations, and will also direct you towardsover 2,500 audio streams. – A site that can help you locate radio streams from all over the world and it currently offers over 4,300 stations. – Probably the most like an actual radio, Slacker features stations for just about every taste, and you can create your own. They do offer a premium version of the service which has no ads, and you can skip as many songs as you want (the free version limits skipping), but you really can make do with the free style. They’ve also finally released a Wi-Fi device which will let you listen to Slacker anywhere you get a signal.So what sources do you use? Do you have a favorite I didn’t mention?

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