How To (Legally) Boost Your Music Library Without Spending Any Money

The music industry has changed a lot in the digital era. We have legal digital stores, streaming services, blogs and artist-curated websites dishing out free music all the time. It's easier than ever to create a massive music library without spending any money. Here's how to do it.

Ever since Napster, one obvious strategy for building a music collection has been downloading files through peer-to-peer services. That practice is still widespread, but it also remains illegal, albeit a crime you're less likely to get prosecuted for these days. However, it's not hard to legally build up an interesting collection of music as long as you're willing to spend a little time looking.

Search Digital Stores For Free Tracks

While their business is selling you songs, online music stores also include a smattering of free tracks as promotional devices. Regularly checking these can help you build a music library, and you'll often discover new artists in the process.

The obvious place to start is iTunes', which offers a free Single Of The Week selection. BigPond Music doesn't have an obvious free section that we could spot. There are also free tracks offered on Amazon and Google Play Music, but that isn't a practical option for Australians unless you go through the hassle of setting up a fake US account with those services.

Search Artist-Uploaded Websites

One of the best ways to get free music is to hit up artist-run uploading sites and stores. Almost every song on SoundCloud is available as a free download. You can also check out the Free Music tag on Bandcamp for an abundance of free albums (not all bands use that tag, but it's a good place to start).

Another site worth checking out is Jamendo, which offers royalty-free music for download. Better still is its recently relaunched Radio feature where you can listen to a curated playlist of a genre of music and download the albums you like directly from the player.

If you're hunting for specific tracks it's always worth checking artist or label websites as well, and signing up for email newsletters for performers you like. Artists frequently will give out free copies of their new singles or EPs, or bonus tracks unavailable elsewhere, for the price of an email address.

An alternative way to track this is to set up Google Alerts for your favourite artist. For instance, to set up an alert for Prince, you would use "Prince free MP3" or "Prince free download".

Public Domain And The Free Music Archive

You might think that public domain music is kind of cheesy, but it has a lot of good stuff, especially if you're a fan of classical, early folk or early jazz. Since copyright law varies by country these are often hard to track down, but the International Music Score Library Project is a good place to start your hunt.

For a comprehensive roundup that includes a good search engine and curation, The Free Music Archive is your best bet. You can browse by artist, genre and more. If the massive archive is overwhelming, you can start at the Curator page for samplers and commentary to help you along your way.

Expand Your Library With Streaming Services

Subscription streaming music services have been relatively late in arriving in Australia, but there are now plenty to choose from. Virtually all of them offer a free trial, and Spotify, Grooveshark and Pandora offer a completely free option. If you're not fussed about having a permanent, always-yours copy, these are good options. You can also integrate streaming services with your existing music library, though options vary and this generally requires a paid subscription.

How do you legally source free music? Share your favourite tactics in the comments.


Comments

    This seems like a fair bit of work - check this out: http://bigpondmusic.com/mog/plans

    $7 a month for unlimited streaming to PCs, or $12 for unlimited streaming to PCs and Mobiles - no ads ever :)

      Plus added bonus of being completely unmetered on Telstra 3G,

        And all other access mediums though Telstra :D

        i have been streaming for about 3 hours a day to and from work on the train....with no charges, it is awesome :)

          THATS ALMOST A GOOD ENOUGH REASON TO SWITCH TO TELSTRA!... there has to be a catch... telstra NEVER offers good value!

    I'd also recommend Amazing Tunes - http://www.amazingtunes.com/ It's a bit like band camp I guess, with mostly British indie stuff and unsigned artists. While a lot is not quite to my taste, I have found some genuinely good stuff on there and a lot of tracks can be downloaded for free. They have a "Top 40" chart which is worth going through plus you can search by genre, similar artists etc.

      And on a more local level, a lot of the music on triple J unearthed is available for download. If you browse the top charts occasionally you can find some really good stuff.

    Noisetrade has some great finds

    Quite a lot is available to download from independent & unsigned artists at http://www.triplejunearthed.com

    Triple J's Free Music Podcast has a selection of songs, each available for a limited time, but once you have the MP3, it's yours to keep: http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/listen/mp3s.htm

    There is a way to grab any song played via SoundCloud -protected or not- thanks to Chrome's "inspect element" (load up "Inspect Element", reload the page, start playing a song, go to the "Network" tab, then filter by size to see the mp3 playing, copy the link address, open in new tab and right-click to save as) but I found SoundCloud's audio quality's pretty low :/

    Buy your CD's online for $10-$15, and have an actual album collection. Rip too any device.

      Problem is a lot of new/indie artists don't have CDs to buy, so they only way to listen to them is via download...

    this is the cheapest place to actually buy MP3's online, $1 an album but I'm pretty sure sure it has to be dodgy even though they claim it isn't.

    http://www.legalsounds.com/

      Lol - must be good if they say they aren't dodgey....

      There are two of our albums for sale there and I can guarantee you we have not licensed them and will never receive a penny in payment. According to their site, they are legal in Russia, but one of the albums they are selling was never available there.

    Hi - have had time to fiddle with the youtube API. So have ended up with a good youtube music-video stream seeded from an artist/s of choice. It's not perfect though well suited to home broadband because its video as well. I get a lot of live stuff from older artists.
    What surprises me in the amount of (c) material people can post on with youtube no probs.
    cheers

    I found this website on the internet called GUVERA ( http://www.guvera.com ) it gives free music if you post adverts for sponsors onto a facebook wall, just create a dummy account. Not every song is there but i have downloaded plenty and probably saved $100 so far. Songs are 256kb MP3.

    What rock have you been under? Oh I know the one the entertainment industry threw at you.
    Downloading files through peer-to-peer services or any other place for that matter is NOT illegal! Never has been. Shame on you for adding to the propaganda.There has never been no criminal case from people downloading music, only a handful of civil ones because it is not illegal. Most of all those threatening letters people have gotten from the RIAA, MPAA and the porn industry in America (we all know the rules are set in America) have been extortion notices. I got one when I was living in America. I just laughed and threw it away. Why is the Australian version of life hacker nothing but a propaganda machine? I used to love life hacker. Its going down the tubes. :(

    there is an new royalty free music library
    http://www.stockaudiotracks.com/
    hope that it will add more to the stock music market

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