Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thing 70: Free (and legal!) MP3 downloads

As the holiday season wraps up, many of our patrons are bringing in shiny new MP3 players and looking to us to magically fill their MP3 players with music. Not just any music - current and popular music. Oh, and it should be free, of course. Since there is no hope of Santa returning in the near future, we are finding ourselves explaining over and over again that, yes there is free music available, but it may not be the top 40 hits and it may not be legally uploaded to the internet.

To help these patrons filter through all of the music download websites on the internet and find free and legal MP3 downloads, we have compiled a list of free and "almost free" websites. Thanks to the detective work of our staff and one really informative web page ("Keep Rocking: 30+ Sites for Free and Legal Music"), we are able to provide our patrons with a large variety of websites and musical genres to choose from.

Websites that offer inexpensive MP3 downloads: have a credit card. The Rhapsody To Go Plan is $14.99 a month. have credit card OR paypal account. The cheapest plan on there is $11.99 per month plus a bonus of 50 downloads for free. Napster to GO plan is $14.95 a month, must have credit card. The plan includes unlimited transfers to compatible mp3 players.

Websites that offer free MP3s:

Amazon MP3 Store - The vast majority of the music at Amazon is for sale, but they do have a rotation of free tracks available for download.
- Focused on promoting new and independent music, their downloads range from free to $0.98 as they grow in popularity.
- An enormous collection of public domain music, expired copyright tracks, as well as some free contemporary music.
- It started off as a resource for independent electronic musicians, but is now open to all. All tracks can be downloaded for free.
- Offers over 13,000 free tracks from mostly European acts.
- A music webzine covering hundreds of music labels, and offering thousands of free & legal songs for you to download.
- a site dedicated to music that you can download to remix and post your results, all under the Creative Commons license.
- Most people think CNet’s is just about software, but they also have tens of thousands of free MP3s you can download from new as well as up and coming bands.
- A large selection of free tracks from smaller record companies that are free to download with larger releases available for purchase
- Offers over 30,000 legal downloads that are managed through a partnership with the labels. Starts you off with credit for 101 free upon registering.
- A blog that posts reviews of complete albums that are available for free downloads from numerous sources.
- Independent bands can upload their music, then have it rated by users, as well as downloaded for free.
- Features streaming music from all of the major labels as well as numerous smaller companies, with numerous free downloadable tracks.
- Finding the free downloads on iTunes can be a chore, this site does the work for you and lets you know what’s free each week.
- Artists upload their albums under Creative Commons, allowing new listeners to discover their work. Although free, there is the opportunity to donate to the performers of your choice.
- While most people know for its streaming and social aspects, they offer a weekly chart of downloadable free mp3s.
Live Music Archive
- Part of, features thousands of live performances by smaller bands as well as the likes of the Grateful Dead and Jason Mraz.
- A band promotion site focusing on various forms of heavy metal, and allowing bands to upload mp3s users can download for free.
- Besides their paid section, does offer a large selection of free tracks from acts small and large alike.
- Focusing on Australian bands, offers a repository for bands to upload their music for people to download and try for free.
MP34U - Works in conjunction with, this site finds sources of free music & legal music from all over the Web.
- Searches multiple sources to bring you approximately a million free song downloads.
- A sister site to MP34U, wherein the artists upload their tracks themselves, and helps them promote their work.—click on “111,000 Free MP3s” at the top of the page
- Allows independent musicians to set up profiles for themselves, stream their music and gives them the option of enabling their work for free downloads.
- Ruckus provides free music to people with .edu email addresses, and requires you to renew your licenses for DRM once a year.
- Offering a mixture of signed and unsigned artists the opportunity to set up profile pages and either stream their music or offer it up for free downloads.
- Major release albums and tracks available for the price of just watching some advertisements.
- Daily free mp3s from various artists, as well as rotating free albums.
- A site for independent artists to promote themselves. Artists can upload tracks either for free or at a user cost of $0.89.
- We7 offers mp3 downloads for free, but they do have advertisements attached to them. If you want them without the ads, they do offer a paid alternative.

Discovery Exercise:
1. Go to one of the websites posted above.
2. Choose a song to download.
3. If you have an MP3 player, transfer that song from the computer to your MP3 player.