Not all good music is paid for: there are millions of free music tracks on the Internet for you to download freely. Here's where.
It seems like a century ago that you had to buy a CD or cassette tape to listen to music, but it also seems like a century ago that the Internet was teeming with sites and systems for downloading free music illegally. Today all that has been swept away by time and the law, but that doesn't mean there isn't a way to download music for free legally.
Not all music has to be paid for: there are huge online libraries of completely free audio files, published royalty-free (or with explicit free listening rights) directly by artists or record companies. Certainly we won't find in these sites the latest hit of the moment or the hit of the summer, which is passing on all the radios. But we can still find a lot of good music, often well sorted by genre and artist. These sites are a powerful tool to listen to free and legal music, if we put ourselves from the point of view of the user, and to get a lot of publicity, if we put ourselves from the point of view of the author. Here are the main sites to download free legal music.
Free Music Archive
FMA, that is Free Music Archive, is what it says it is: an archive. There's little promotion and a lot of research on this site, which may be a bit inconvenient but is actually very rich. The music, then, is finely filed by genres and sub-genres so the true connoisseurs will find FMA a valuable tool.
The tracks can be listened to in streaming or downloaded but, unfortunately, there is no real player that allows us to navigate within the chosen track.
On Jamendo we can find millions of music tracks with Creative Commons international license or with French Licence Art Libre. In both cases the music can be listened to absolutely free of charge, while if we want to use the music in other artistic creations, we usually have to cite the credits to the artist. In other cases we have to pay a monthly or annual subscription.
The Jamendo catalog is well divided by music genres, there are featured contents and monthly playlists and by genre. There is no shortage of radio stations and selections. It is possible to both stream and download music.
NoiseTrade is a community of independent artists who publish their music and allow users to listen and download it for free. It requires users to register for free in order to access all of an artist's content, otherwise we will only have a preview of a few tracks, which we will not be able to download.
The site also offers very comprehensive fact sheets on each artist or band and a list of upcoming concerts or live streaming.
SoundClick offers millions of tracks, some free others at very low prices (usually no more than $1.25, averaging $5 for the entire album). The archive is divided into many genres and sub-genres and is to be browsed at your leisure.
It is possible to both stream and download and the user interface is very convenient, with a great player that is positioned at the bottom of the site and accompanies us while we navigate between genres, artists and tracks.
SoundCloud is one of the most used platforms by emerging artists to get noticed by the general public. It allows you to stream music for free and, if the author allows it, even download it. On the user side, however, the interface is not very comfortable.
It is indeed possible to search for a song by title or listen to free playlists, but there is no section that lists the songs that you can download. In fact, this is done on purpose: this way the user is constantly exploring new content.