last updated October 15, 2015
It's difficult to be a music fan in a world full of internet leaks, peer to peer and Bit Torrent. The allure to steal music is high and the incentives to pay for it are becoming lower everyday. So New Media Rights wanted to put together a list of great sites where you can download or stream free, legal mp3s and albums so you can avoid getting sued by the RIAA and support your favorite musicians at the same time.
Table of Contents
Do you have any sites for free and legal music that you use regularly? Do your run your own free, legal music service that you want featured? This list is always growing and improving, so post a link to your site in the comments below!
Spotify: Spotify is one of the most popular free services that allow you to type in the name of a song that you want to hear, and more likely than not, it will allow you to stream the song for free. Unlike Grooveshark, it requires you to download a program instead of simply using it in your browser, but the program allows you to transfer your music library and playlists on any computer where you download the program to. One setback is that you do have to listen to a commercial every few songs, and that not every artist is on the service. But the commercials make it so the service can remain free and legal. Finally, there is the added bonus that you can upload your own bands to Spotify, and get a royalty every time someone listens to your songs.
Pandora: Pandora is an streaming radio service with stations you create yourself. Input songs or genres that you like and Pandora's recommendation technology will play you songs that are similar using over 400 categories ensure that it's playing a song that you like. Users can provide feedback on approval or disapproval of individual songs, which Pandora takes into account for future selections.
LastFM: Last.fm is an Internet radio site for streaming music with over 40 million active users internationally. In addition to radio, it's a music-based social networking site where users can recommend and play artists similar to the user's favorites. Users can create custom radio stations and playlists from any of the audio tracks in Last.fm's music library, can to listen to some individual tracks on demand, and can download certain tracks that LastFM has rights to. LastFM's scrobbler also keeps track of what you've listened to on your iPod and iTunes so you can compare notes with your friends about what your favorite tunes are. Based on your playlist, LastFM recommends shows in your area.
Grooveshark (ended operations in 2015): Type in almost any song or album that you would like to hear and Grooveshark will give you a streaming version of that track or album that you can play anywhere and at any time. They claim to have millions of songs available for streaming.
Rdio: Rdio is another on-demand music service, but differs in that the unlimited plans do charge a flat monthly fee (anywhere from $4.99 to $17.99 a month depending on the plan). However, they now offer a limited web streaming service for free. The advantage of Rdio is that there are no ads. You can also browse your friends' playlists and seek out recommendations from their staff.
Mog: Mog presents itself as an "online community that focuses on sharing songs, a music library, videos and thoughts on music." They boast "best audio quality" with streaming at 320 kbps. The free service allows you to listen to millions of free songs with ads. For $4.99-9.99 a month, you can upgrade the service to ad-free, unlimited music.
Jamendo: More than 36,000 albums (featuring primarily unknown artists) are available to freely and legally download on Jamendo. Songs are licensed through Creative Commons licenses or Free Art License, so in addition to copying and sharing you can also remix, sample and use some of the tracks commercially. Jamendo allows users to stream albums on the service in either Ogg Vorbis or MP3 format. The site is translated into French, English, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian for international users.
Daytrotter: Daytrotter (the website of the Horseshack recording studio in Rock Island, Illinois) features exclusive, re-worked, alternate versions of the old songs (and unreleased tracks) by popular and upcoming indie bands. 28 songs by 7 bands per week are available as free downloads. According to Wikipedia: "The sessions can be compared to that of a radio station's lounge recordings, where musicians passing through the town can do a semi-live song...The process of attempting the perfect take, instead of months of overdubbing, combined with low pressure on the artists (it's not a live performance in front of a crowd, and it's not an album being recorded), causes the final product to be an honest representation of the band at the time in both a physical and musical sense...The sessions have been compared to that of the legendary Peel Sessions."
Deezer: Deezer is a free music streaming service based in France with over 7 million songs. Deezer legally has the rights to stream 165,000 songs distributed by Sony and much of the Universal catalog. Deezer was also the first French music site to sign an agreement with a publisher rights' organisation to reimburse artists through advertising revenue.
KEXP: This non-profit, Seattle-based radio station provides 24 hours of streaming music for listeners around the world. While most of their music focuses on indie rock, they also have program blocks of country, world, latin, punk, hip-hop, jazz, etc. The weekdays boast in-studio performances.
NPR: NPR is National Public Radio, and while they offer informative programming on a variety of topics, they also have an All Songs 24/7 Music Channel, interview myriad musicians, and stream new albums. The lack of commercial influence on NPR means that they promote a broader range of musical genres.
Purevolume (Albums) / (Tracks): PureVolume is a social networking site for the discovery and promotion of new music and emerging artists that connects artists with fans. Each artist has a profile that users can browse by whether artist is signed to a major label or not. The majority of profiles contain streaming tracks in a manner similar to Myspace Music. Artists have the option of making entire albums available for streaming as well as making any posted songs/albums available for free download. Listeners and fans can create profiles to interact with artists, and share music they like.
thesixtyone: thesixtyone is a sort of internet radio station that features streaming music and uses collaborative filtering to organize and decide what tracks will be played for users. "thesixtyone's guiding principle is to enable the creative middle class, providing talented artists the opportunity to make a living making music." The site also encourages artists to license their music under Creative Commons licenses and allow free downloads.
Musicovery : Really interesting site where you can pick what range of energetic, calm, positive or dark song you would like. You can also choose a music genre and the site creates for you a web that plays your ideal mix of songs.
Amie Street: Amie Street is an indie online music store and social network service built to be a "fun way to discover and buy music online" and support the artists. The site features over 25k songs to download for free and the list is growing. Additionally, the has a site regularly updated list of 25 free songs of both unknown and high profile independent musicians.
Fingertips Music Blog: Fingertips features free and legal music that you can download, sync to your iPod, copy and share. MP3s are typically made available via independent record companies and artists. Fingertips wants its users to be able download music on the site with a free conscience and allow users to support musicians with whom you connect most especially. According to the editorial/musical focus of the site: "There's nothing too harsh or too weird here, and nothing dumb or pointless; I look for high-quality, intelligent rock'n'roll, and pass it along to you in controlled doses, three songs a week." Overall, it's well organized, and genre focused towards "Indie Rock."
Free Albums on Blogsome: This blog posts a new album for download three times a week. Although it's a bit hard to navigate, if you simply want to browse for and be surprised by new music the site is great. It offers a variety of genres (including the typical "indie" sound) but it also branches off into classical, modern composition, free jazz, avant-garde, and electronic works. The site features all unknowns, but the great part is that each album is described, tagged, and has been pre-screened as being enjoyed by the blogger.
Gigwise: Gigwise.com is an online music news and reviews magazine based in the United Kingdom. Gigwise's free downloads page has legal mp3s and often features exclusive downloads.
Better Propaganda: Better Propaganda features a small but quality list regularly updated with new free MP3s from high profile indie artists. Songs can streamed and/or downloaded. The site has been active since 2003 and showcases artists from over 600 independent and major labels.
Free Music Podcast: German Language site that specializes in promoting music published under free licenses as well as interviewing and promoting artists that release their music under free licenses.
XLR8R Magazine: MP3 blog of xlr8r magazine featuring promotional music sent by record labels. Browse Mp3s by "top rated," "most popular," or "newest added."
23 Seconds: 23 seconds is a "netlabel" with the aim to share music, short films, and other artistic projects from artists of different genres. People searching for new music here should be looking for art & music that goes beyond the mainstream.
Hybridized: Hybridized is build as a free resource to find the best breaks and progressive live & DJ sets and provide an easy place to download, stream, and discuss great sets. Normally the only way you can find live electronic and DJ sets was by visiting websites with broken links or getting lucky on P2P networks. Hybridized.org's goal is to contain as many high quality sets from our artists as possible while maintaining the full support of each artist. Each artist agrees to allow their live and DJ sets to be shared freely on the site.
Newgrounds Audio Portal: The Newgrounds Audio Portal is a resource for aspiring musicians and Flash animators. When an artist submits a song, it gets human-reviewed before being listed. All submissions are licensed under Creative Commons (under a BY-NC-SA 3.0 Creative Commons license) which means that it shared and copied and modifications can be made as long as the original musician is attributed and the song is used for non-commercial purposes. Animators looking for music can pick songs from many different genres ranging from drum and bass to jazz to use in their animations without breaking copyright laws. New tracks are added daily.
8bitpeoples: 8bitpeoples is a New York record label/arts collective that focuses on "chiptune" (8-bit video game style music). In addition to their mp3s, they including printable covers and inserts so that anyone can manufacture a hard copy of their releases. Though it mostly centers on chiptune music (written in sound formats where all the sounds are synthesized in real time by a computer or video game console sound chip) there’s lots plenty of stuff for different tastes as well.
Ektoplazm: Ektoplazm bills itself as "the world's #1 source for free and legal psytrance, techno, and downtempo music" They provide downloads in MP3, FLAC, and WAV format and don't require users to register. The site focuses on "high-quality Creative Commons-licensed content from netlabels and independent artists" To date, the site has "facilitated the delivery of more than 1.75 million individual releases to countless listeners all over the planet."
Listen Arabic: Listen Arabic has free streaming Arabic Radio (in the bottom right-hand corner of the site).
Photo Credit: Shaggy's friend - L'ACQUA IN TESTA - IV edizione by *RICCIO "il colore del ricordo inganna"
Photo Credit: "iPhone + Headphones" by _Morrissey_