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The best free music download sites that are legal
Music streaming services are convenient, but there’s nothing like having your songs stored offline. The trick is that downloading your tunes usually costs money, whether you’re purchasing it or paying for a subscription. We know finding the best free music download sites is hard, so we’ve done the hard work to bring them to you in the form of a convenient and simple list of options.
Why use free music download sites?
Music is what moves us, but it’s something that also usually comes at a price. Of course, you can always use one of the many music streaming apps that allow free listening, but free music streaming apps usually have serious limitations.
For starters, you’ll likely have to deal with advertising on free music apps. That alone isn’t a problem considering you’re getting something for free, but another issue is you won’t be able to download songs. This is usually a premium paid feature, which means you’ll have to use data for streaming whenever you want to listen to music for free.
Free music download sites make it easier to get songs for offline listening. There are still some limitations, including the fact that the selection of music and artists will not be as wide. Having few free options is better than having none, though. What’s more, these free music download sites are more prone to support indie musicians who struggle to get on mainstream platforms. This makes these services great for discovering new music.
Regardless, there are obvious advantages to using free music download sites. Downloaded songs can be played regardless of your internet speeds, and you can even be completely offline. This is great for when flying or traveling through spotty service areas. Additionally, some of you might want to reduce data usage. Your plan might not be as generous with gigabytes, which is an obvious problem when continuously streaming songs.
The best free music download sites
Editor’s note: We’ll regularly update this list of the best free music download sites.
Boy, does Amazon love to give stuff away for free. Books, apps, and sometimes even music. Amazon has a few music services under its purview — Prime Music, which is included with Prime, and Amazon Music Unlimited, which is a paid service separate from Prime, and basically Amazon’s answer to other music streaming services. Amazon also gives away music that can be downloaded and played locally, completely free.
Amazon’s free music library isn’t that extensive, but it includes some well-known artists like the Foo Fighters, Flogging Molly, and Meg Birch. Once you enter the song or album’s page, hit Purchase options and go into MP3 music. Select Get album free and finish the checkout process. Amazon will then ask for a phone number to send you a link to download the music.
Some CDs purchased from Amazon include Amazon’s Auto-rip feature, which makes MP3s of the music you bought available for download at no extra cost. The music itself isn’t free, but the download is, which is why it can make it onto this list. There are many ways to get free music from Amazon, so it’s worth exploring.
Free Music Archive
When searching for free music download sites, you might want to start with the Free Music Archive (FMA). It’s a great place to continue your search, too, if you started with Amazon, like us. Every track on the FMA is available for download. Furthermore, much of the music on the site is available for rebroadcast, such as backing music for a voiceover track or movie soundtrack. Each song is published under its license, and it’s essential to know which is which (it’s all explained in FMA’s FAQ).
You can search for music by artist, title, or genre. It’s also possible to use a search function. For discovery, several curators gather tracks into playlists for folks to listen to and download.
NoiseTrade is an interesting site created by musicians to give away free music in exchange for mailing list information. The music is free, and any music on the site can be downloaded, provided you exchange your email address and zip code for the privilege. Before that exchange is made, you can only listen to a short sample of the work. The model is successful because it gives each artist your email address and general location (ZIP code). This can help artists contact fans and see where people might listen to them, which could turn into future profit.
The interface on the site is a little on the clunky side. You need to confirm you are giving away your email address and zip code for every artist individually. Want to listen to a track from Comfort Zones? Confirm you’re giving them your info. Now you want to listen to Eli Lev? Great! Confirm you’re giving them your information. It’s understandable, but a little annoying.
Aside from Amazon, SoundCloud is likely one of the most popular services on this list. Originally developed as a platform for artists to share and collaborate on music, it has become a major sound distribution platform. You might notice I said “sound” distribution, not music. The reason is simple: SoundCloud is a pretty major platform for podcasts as well.
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There is a ton of music on SoundCloud. In addition to the indie artists most of these sites carry, you’ll find major players like Metallica and Nine Inch Nails, among many others. The only downside is that not all songs can be downloaded. The artist needs to enable the feature, and you’ll need to sign up for a SoundCloud account first.
Jamendo is a community of independent artists and fans boasting about 600,000 songs, all available to download for private use. In addition, it also has a wide selection of content available for licensing.
Music enthusiasts will enjoy the Explore, Radios, and Spotlight features, which all help you discover new songs you might otherwise have never found. The web player on the site is quite laggy when it comes to playing songs, but every track on the site is available for download.
Live Music Archive
Sometimes you want to jam out to your favorite artists’ live songs, where things can play out a little differently — it adds a little spice. You won’t find a lot of mainstream artists here. Unless you like the Grateful Dead. You’ll also find the likes of Blues Traveler and Smashing Pumpkins. The nice thing about the Live Music Archive is that recordings are available in lossless format, or MP3 if you prefer.
Some of the recordings aren’t great. You never know how they were recorded, let alone how they were digitized, but that’s the nature of live recordings. The website is a bit on the slow side for searching, but once you find the live recording you want, you can download it in various ways — even torrent if that slices your pie.
Musopen is a non-profit organization, based in California, with the goal to bring free music to the public, free of charge. You won’t find radio station music here. You’ll find music (and sheet music) from composers like Chopin, Vivaldi, and Bach. Most of this music falls under public domain, so there’s no licensing to worry about.
With a Lite (free) account, you can download up to five songs per day. For $55 per year, you can have unlimited downloads. You might not mind paying this amount, though, as paid memberships are tax-deductible.
Downloading the music requires at least a free account. You can search by composer, performer, instrument, and a few other categories.
ReverbNation is dedicated to helping smaller artists get their music out there. The site is largely artist-centric, with tools for artist promotion. It also allows fans to enter the site with a free account and find new and upcoming artists. The Discover area is great for this, providing you with features and collections based on genres like alternative, hip hop, metal, and more. You can also find some better-known artists on the site. Bands like Judas Priest, Scorpions, and Public Enemy have all released music on ReverbNation.
The downside to the site — if you want to call it a downside — is that artists decide whether they want their music downloadable, and from my experience on the site, not too many of them do. There’s a ton of music on the site to listen to, and a ton of new artists to discover.
Add to that, the spammers (I don’t know if there’s an official name) who post their music under famous artists’ names. I found hundreds of artists named Metallica and Taylor Swift who were decidedly neither. They barely qualified as music. Regardless, ReverbNation has some great music, and popular artists do show up from time to time.
This website makes it easy to support emerging musicians, allowing them to publish their music and get a good amount of cash for it. Bandcamp claims the artist gets about 82% of the money supporters pay. With that in mind, it’s clear that the point of Bandcamp is to support musicians, but artists can also pick to allow free downloads if they want more exposure.
The selection of music you can download for free isn’t great, but free is free! You might as well discover some music you might like.
Last.FM is an excellent music service for discovering songs and getting personalized recommendations. You can even connect other music services to it, to track more personal information about your musical preferences. It’s mainly meant for online use, but there’s a selection of songs you can download for free. The list isn’t huge, but there is good stuff in there. Additionally, you might like trying out the service, which is unique.
Q: Is downloading music legal?
A: The laws and rules of intellectual property are complex, and differ between countries. We can’t dig too deep into the details, but as a general rule of thumb: downloading music is legal as long as the creator lets you download it. None of the best free music download sites on this list are pirating websites, though. You will be fine getting songs from these pages as long as you get them the official way.
Q: Is MP3 good enough?
A: Generally speaking, MP3 quality is good enough for casual listening. That said, some websites allow downloading uncompressed music files. Additionally, some MP3 files offer higher-quality audio. You’ll have to look at the details from each website to find out more.
Q: Should I pay for music?
A: If you want to download your music, the best way to go about things is by purchasing it or subscribing to a music streaming service that allows downloads. These free music download sites are great, but their selection of music is minimal. Alternatively, you can find free music streaming apps, which will require an internet connection.
Are you trying to find the best music streaming service? Let’s help you! We’ve created a list of the best music streaming apps and services. If you’ve decided to stick with local files, though, you’ll need one of the best music player apps to play back the music you download on Android.