The Internet is full of possibilities to download free music legally. Free and legal, is not that tautological? Not necessarily, as you may stumble upon offers to download free music that are only free for users from a specific country. This guide however covers methods and services that allow or enable everyone to download free music. The guide has been divided into chapters that covers specific methods or services.
In Free Music Downloads, we cover music portals that offer direct downloads of free music. This is basically an update for the 2008 guide How To Increase Your Music Collection Free (And Legally).
Free Music Downloads
If you look at sites that offer free music downloads you notice that the majority hosts music by lesser known artists. I personally would see that as a chance, not a restriction. Sure, you won't find the latest Take That or Madonna on those sites, but that does not necessarily mean that the music is of less quality, or less enjoyable.
One of the largest websites that offers free music downloads is Jamendo. The music portal, at the time of writing, hosts more than 300,000 music tracks, which are all freely available.
Even better, you do not even need an account to download full albums or songs. Downloads are provided directly or as legal music torrents that you can download in your Bittorrent software.
You should consider supporting those independent artists if you like the music. You can be sure that the money reaches them directly.
- CCMixter - Remixes licensed under Creative Commons.
- ClearBits - Legal music torrents, check out the Netlabel Music category on site as well for more free music downloads.
- Free Music Archive - Covers free music from all genres, no album downloads.
- Live Music Archive - A section on Archive.org that hosts live music that you can freely download. This does include popular artists and bands.
- Unsigned Band Web - Music from bands that have no record contract. Thousands of songs available.
Another excellent source to download free music are music blogs. A good starting point is the website The Hype Machine which aggregates new music postings from many popular music blogs. You cannot download music directly on the website though but can follow links to the music blogs to do that there.
Below is a selection of music blogs that post direct music links. If you search the web you find many similar sites. A good starting point is the link section of the sites linked below, or a site like Hypem which acts as an aggregator.
- Bottom of the glass - Regularly updated music blog with direct mp3 links
- Faronheit - Chicago based music blog, regularly updated, direct music downloads.
- MP3 Hugger - Daily free music downloads and reviews.
- Sonic Masala - Another music blog, uploads music to file hosting sites.
- Spinner - Music blog with free direct mp3 downloads and reviews.
- The Music Ninja - Daily music updates.
Record Internet Radio
One of the easiest options to download free music is to record Internet radio. This is legal in most countries. Internet Radio has become a popular source to play music online in recent years thanks to the rise of broadband connections and flatrates. While you can only listen to one station at a time, you can record multiple, usually only limited by the speed of your Internet connection and the performance of the computer.
Many Internet Radio stations are now offering high quality audio streams, which should satisfy users who only listen to high quality music.
Probably the biggest usability issue is that you cannot pick a specific song or artist. You only pick a station based on genre or quality, and download random songs from it. Some tools, like Streamwriter make use of wishlists to reduce the randomness.
One of the best tools for recording Internet radio is Streamwriter. The free program comes with everything one would need to get started. It offers a channel list of Radio stations, abilities to record multiple radio stations at once, filters to only download music of a specific quality level and a wishlist to download songs that you really want.
- Phonostar - Record more than 6000 Internet radio stations.
- Stripper - a StreamRipper frontend in Java.
- Stream Harvester - stations need to be added manually.
- Tapin Radio - simple music player and recorder
I have not included tools and services to download music from popular sites such as Last.fm, Grooveshark or Spotify. Tools exist to download music from these services, but it is questionable if it is legal to download music from those services.