June 08--The toughest thing to find on the Internet, besides a phone number for eBay, might be free downloadable music. Everyone's buying music at iTunes or Amazon.com or streaming it at Spotify, Slacker or Pandora.
When pride of ownership at no cost matters, the music lover can still find freebie downloads scattered across the Internet. Here are a few places to look. (Websites for independent record labels, fledgling bands and music blogs are also good sources.)
Smithsonian Folkways: The nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution is loaded with "America's" music -- folk, blues, jazz, Cajun -- and world genres like Celtic, Caribbean and music from Central Asia.
The collection includes for-pay songs (99 cents each) and albums ($9.99 each), with assorted freebies available for download as MP3 files or higher-resolution, CD-quality FLAC files. On a recent visit I spotted free music by Folkways staple Pete Seeger, the Kronos Quartet, the acoustic blues duo John Cephas and Phil Wiggins, and Nati Cano's mariachi ensemble, Mariachi los Camperos.
The Internet Archive: For live-music recordings, the Internet Archive is the ticket. The Grateful Dead, not surprisingly, is a prime attraction with a staggering 9,192 shows available for free download. This nonprofit library also offers about 3 million public domain books, old-time television shows and other digitized material.
Freegal Music: Freegal, as in free and legal, offers 3 million-plus songs from 10,000 labels, available as MP3 files to local residents with a library card. The limit, at least at my local library, is three songs a week. Browse by album, artist, song or genre and download directly to your mobile device using apps available at the iTunes Store (Apple) or Google Play (Android).
Freegal also lists the top 10 downloads at your library (Pitbull's "Feel This Moment" was No. 1 at mine) or the top 100 nationwide (Pink's "Just Give Me A Reason").
You cannot access the music without entering your library card number. (Check your local library's website.)
Classic Jazz On Line: During a recent visit, more than 40,000 downloadable (MP3) tunes were available, with new arrivals from familiar names Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett, alongside Harry Reser's Clicquot Club Eskimos with Tom Stacks, and Sir Eugene Goossens & The New Light Symphony Orchestra of London.
Search options include the usual artist and song title but also a playlist option that queues up 25 tunes from a specific year.
Last.fm: This free streaming Internet radio service also maintains a catalog of free MP3 downloads. To find it, scroll to the bottom of the home page to the index and, in the bottom right under "Even More," you'll see "Free Music Downloads."
Just because I found nothing of interest doesn't mean there aren't some gems. It will help to find them if you have a Last.fm account; it will recommend music based on your listening history at the site.
Jamendo: A big-time library with 370,000 tunes and more than 40,000 artists. It's possible to browse, but Jamendo is more a discover site that lists songs by popularity. It directed me to "La Scelta del Presidente" by the Italian band Millionaire Blonde. Yes, that was a discovery.
Free Music Archive: A contemporary music cooperative directed by WFMU, a community FM radio station in New Jersey, that catalogs music posted by both its partner curators and its users. Search music by genre or curator. (freemusicarchive.org)
Amazon.com: They're not easy to find, but Amazon.com stashes free tunes at its site. At my check-in, more than 55,000 songs were available for free as MP3 downloads.
There were more recognizable names, at least to my tastes, than at Jamendo and Last.fm too. My eye caught bluesmen Son Seals and Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater and jazz artists Cyrus Chestnut and Mal Waldron. Billy Ray Cyrus fans, there's something there for you as well.
iTunes Store: It's barely worth the effort, but look for "Free on iTunes" under "Quick Links" in the iTunes Store. Each week, there's a free single, like Baby Bee's "High Heel Leather Boots," featured television shows and some movie featurettes.
Want to share a favorite source? Email me at email@example.com.
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