Music is what moves us. It’s not just a cliche. Tons of steaming sites out there can stream all of your favorite tunes, like Spotify and Apple Music. However, not everyone has an awesome data plan to let you stream music all the time, and not everyone wants to pay for music. What’s more, mainstream artists are great and all, but there’s a whole world of music that you can find that isn’t played on your local radio station. There are artists out there who are as good, if not better than Taylor Swift — yeah, I said it — who just haven’t found the national spotlight just yet. That’s where free music download sites come in.
Don’t get me wrong, some of these sites carry popular, mainstream music as well, but these kinds of sites typically offer more indie artists. So let’s dive into some of the best free music download sites out there, just waiting to fill up your SD cards.
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 all that extensive, but it includes some well known artists like the Foo Fighters, Flogging Molly, and Meg Birch. Once you order the songs, they’re added to your music library. From there, you can download them directly, or install Amazon’s Music player app and play them from there.
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 of is, which is why it can make it onto this list. There are a lot of ways to get free music from Amazon, so it’s definitely 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 own license, and it’s important to know which is which (it’s all explained in FMA’s FAQ).
Finding music to listen to is a bit more challenging. You can search for music by artist, title or genre, but you’ll need to be pretty specific to find individual tracks. For discover, there are a number of curators who gather tracks together into playlists for folks to listen to and download. If you can find a curator with similar tastes in music as you, you’ll be in good shape. If you’re picky, it might be a little of the difficult side to find music you love.
NoiseTrade is an interesting site created by musicians as a way to give away free music in exchange for mailing list information. The music is totally 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).
Let’s say you’re a band trying to figure out where to tour. NoiseTrade has provided you with the email address and location of every person who’s interested in listening to your music. That’s gold for an artist looking to maximize touring revenue. Suddenly, the name NoiseTrade make a lot more sense.
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 info. It’s understandable, but a little annoying.
Of all the services we researched, SoundCloud is the one you’ve most likely heard of. Originally developed as a platform for artists to share and collaborate on music, it has since grown to be 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.
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. SoundCloud offers a variety of choices for its artists, and as a result, you may not find the option to download any music you want. Sometimes you just get a sample, sometimes you get a full song to stream, and sometimes you get to download. The platform’s a bit hit or miss, but in terms of music (and podcast) variety, SoundCloud is a pretty strong option for downloading music for free.
Jamendo is a community of independent artists and fans boasting about half a million songs, all available to download for private use. In addition, it also has about 250,000 tracks available for multimedia projects. They also license work for in-store use (background music while you shop). This way Jamendo puts music in the ears of a wide variety of audiences.
You can search for music via genre, curated playlists, or radio stations. The web player in the site is quite laggy when it comes to playing songs. It takes almost 15 seconds to actually start playing a track, which can be a little jarring. But every track on the site is available for download, which makes it easy to download once you find a track you like.
The radio stations are interesting because they work like terrestrial radio — they just broadcast curated songs at the given time, meaning if you start a Rock radio station you may (and probably will) come in at the middle of a song, as if you just turned on the radio. The player will also continue to play regardless of navigation within the site.
Live Music Archive
There are times that you want to jam out to some of your favorite artists, but not their studio tracks. Sometimes you want to jam out live, 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 — there are a lot of Grateful Dead recordings here. You’ll also find the likes of Blues Traveler and Smashing Pumpkins. The really nice thing about the Live Music Archive is that recordings are available in lossless format, or MP3 if you prefer. It’s a pretty no-frills website.
Some of the recordings are suspect. You just 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 a variety of ways — even torrent if that slices your pie. Regardless, it gives me a good chance to check out some golden oldies from Mr. Blotto.
Musopen is a non-profit organization based in California whose goal is to bring free music to the public, free of charge. You won’t find radio station music here. This largely offers symphonic pieces and the like. You’ll find music (and sheet music) from composers like Chopin, Vivaldi, and Bach, rather than One Direction and NSYNC. Most of this music falls under public domain, so there’s no licensing to worry about.
You can download up to 5 songs per day with a Lite (free) account. For $55 per year, you can have unlimited downloads, and for $20 per month, you can become a benefactor and actually request pieces of music, which is interesting. All memberships are tax deductible, so you’ve got that going for you as well.
Actually downloading the music requires at least a free account. You can search by composer, performer, instrument, as well as a few other categories. There’s also a ratings system, like leaving a Yelp review for Beethoven or something. Once you log in, you can download the music and play it to your heart’s content.
ReverbNation is a website 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. I listened to quite a bit of ReverbNation music while writing this. But finding artists that have made their music available to download is quite hit or miss — more often miss, in fact.
Add to that, the spammers (I don’t know if there’s an official name) who post their music under popular artists names. I found hundreds of artists going by names like Metallica and Taylor Swift who were decidedly neither. Actually, they barely qualified as music. Regardless, ReverbNation has some really great music, and popular artists do show up from time to time.
Free Music Download Sites – Conclusion
Those are our picks for the best free music download sites out there. Did we miss any of your favorites? We’ll be updating this list from time to time, so hit us up in the comments. Don’t forget to promote your favorite indie music artist while you’re there!
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