I love music, and I love free stuff. Free music? Heavenly. For those of you who think that nothing good comes for free, you’re about to be surprised. Here are some of my favorite sites to get 100% free and 100% legal music.
Surprised already? Amazon has become a major player in the arena of online music sales, with one of the first stores to sell music files without any digital rights management. If you dig deep enough (or just click the above link), you can find many tracks available for free as album-samplers. At the time of this writing, I’m looking at 768 songs available for $0.00 on Amazon, and many of them are artists you may have actually heard of, like Neko Case, Death Cab for Cutie, or Louisville’s own My Morning Jacket.
On this site, you’ll find BitTorrent downloads of music from the SXSW Conference’s Music Showcase, from 2005 to this year. The 2009 collection is 5GB large! Once SXSW 2010 rolls around, music from there will likely be up on this page, too.
The Live Music Archive/Etree
This archive is a collaboration between Internet Archive and etree.org, a live-concert-trading community. The list of available artists is ridiculously long, and includes The Grateful Dead, but unfortunately, not Phish or Widespread Panic, two bands who are traditionally OK with live-concert recording. Additional Etree trading posts include and Etree’s BitTorrent tracker.
OC ReMix, which offers streaming, direct downloads, and BitTorrent downloads, is “dedicated to the appreciation and promotion of video game music as an art form.” Game music has been, for some time now, far beyond blips and beeps. The amount of music here is staggering (1687 remixes at this writing), and many remixes come from professional-level composers. To give you an idea of the quality, Capcom commissioned OC ReMix members to create the soundtrack for a recent update to Street Fighter II.
ccMixter features remixes licensed under Creative Commons, which allows others to sample, chop up, and rearrange these works. You may browse full remixes, or collect samples, loops, and a-capellas, to create your own masterpiece. The community offers advice on how to edit the sounds together properly.
The FMA is assembled from the archives of nine “curators” such as radio stations. The simple design allows you to get to the meat of the site quickly. Songs are can be browsed by genre or curator, and new tracks are added constantly. You may sign up to create mix playlists or full-blown “˜blogs of FMA content.
LegalTorrents hosts downloadable collections from share-friendly creators as well as entire record companies (“netlabels”) who offer their catalogs for free. If you like what you hear, you are encouraged to create an account and donate directly to the artists and labels, or to the site itself, which seeds all of its own Torrents.
For some more sources of free, legal, music, check out Simon’s article from this past January. I’m sure that there are more free music archives which we’ve missed. Shout-out your favorites in the comments.