Public Service Announcement: Downloading free music is often illegal. Who knew?
Fortunately, there are quite a few places to get your music game on, without violating any laws or dropping a dime.
First, if you don’t want to download the song permanently, you know to use Spotify, Grooveshark, Pandora, or Last.fm (more on that later), among many other good sites.
But, if you don’t have persistent wifi, or want to make a CD for your car (shut up, my car has a CD player), you’re going to need more than streaming. Here are a few places you might want to check out.
iMesh. iMesh is a lot like the illegal downloading warehouses of yesteryear—thousands of songs by popular artists. Only now? It’s legal. We don’t really get how or why, but you can definitely download real songs that are like, played on the radio, by artists like Daft Punk, Pink, Tay Swift, Beyonce… the list goes on.
NoiseTrade. If you’re looking for new artists, try NoiseTrade. NoiseTrade seems more curated to a particular rock-hipster-modern aesthetic. Think: Guster, fun., and other artists. Bonus: if you search for an artist you like, but isn’t featured (i.e., Haim), it will recommend other artists for you. Like most of the free download sites, you can also sample before you download.
Urban Outfitters. UO makes downloadable play lists, and also gives you “Free Music Mondays,” with five free songs each week (there’s also UO Radio, if you just want to stream). They keep old playlists up, so there are dozens of songs available for free right now. You don’t get to search, but you also get to skip that boring step.
Amazon. Amazon has an impressive collection of free songs and albums. Sometimes, a big artist will release their album FO’ (close to) FREE (see, e.g. Lady Gaga’s entire “Born this Way” album for $0.99 on its release date). It might take some work to find good music, but there’s some good, free stuff available.
MP3.com. Like Amazon, a lot on this site is… nothing you really care to listen to, to be polite. However, MP3.com has a pretty legit “MP3 of the Day” each day, and creates a playlists for various occasions (albeit the last occasion was May 2012… but still, Best Coast is featured! And I like them!).
Free Music Archive (FMA). FMA is pretty cool and very easy to use. FMA lists artists in a variety of ways, and frequently updates. We particularly like the Search by Genre feature, which also allows you to search by sub-genre (i.e., in Pop, there’s Experimental Pop and Synth Pop, and in Rock – there are a dozen sub-genres to select from). FMAs mixtapes are legit.
Last.fm. You probably know that Last.fm is great for streaming, but it also offers some free downloads. At the bottom of the main page, you’ll see a link for Free Music Downloads.Voila! Free music.
MadeLoud. MadeLoud features mostly independent (indie) artists, and all music is uploaded by the artists themselves. MadeLoud is a great place to discover new bands & artists you might not have ever discovered. The website also publishes reviews, so you can learn a little more about an artist before downloading their stuff.
Facebook. Go to an artist’s Facebook page, and you just might find a free download (unlikely for Rihanna, more likely for an indie band). Check out this one for The Knocks (you have to Like them to download).
Where do you get your music? Do you pay for it? Stream? Download?