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.