The wide variety of reputable companies that offer downloading services proves that high demand for mp3s still exists. The trick is knowing where to find the good sites. Try some of these destinations for all of your free music downloading needs.
Top Sites for Downloading Free Music
The following top-notch sites are the best sources for free music downloads:
Soundcloud gives independent artists the ability to upload their music and, in many cases, download for free the songs of others. It also features major label artists who sometimes offer free downloads. It is free to sign up, create a profile, and upload music to share with others. As you set up your profile you can designate yourself simply as a "fan/listener" if you don't wish to upload your own music. The site has an extensive mix of genres from every corner of the music industry, both indie and mainstream. The free membership comes with 100 downloads and two hours of upload space. If you want more, you will have to upgrade to their paid "Pro" memberships.
Last.fm, besides offering free downloads for many songs, uses what the company calls an "audioscrobbler" to customize song recommendations for listeners. Their free download page is organized by genre, and you will find every style of music imaginable, even styles from past decades such as the '50s, '60s, and so on. However, most of the free downloads from current artists are from indie artists. Probably the best feature is the page on your profile that alerts you whenever a free download has become available from an artist that you've marked as a favorite. It is free to sign up, and there are no download limits.
MP3.com, owned now by CNET, is one of the oldest of the free mp3 sites, and it still offers one of the finest collections of indie and unsigned artists. While it does not feature major label names, it has plenty of downloads for indie bands that are waiting to be discovered. It does not require you to sign up for a profile, and there are no download limits. A great feature is the "free mp3 of the day" which is prominently displayed on the home page each day.
Amazon offers a vast library of free, unlimited mp3 downloads. A more eclectic mix, you will find everything from indie artists to established stars to free compilation albums from independent record labels. You can browse free mp3s by album, artist, or their "Artists on the Rise" feature. To download a song you must first sign up for a free profile on Amazon.com and download their "Amazon MP3 Player" software, which is made available during the download process.
Probably one of the most enjoyable and easiest to use of the indie-centered download sites, Jamendo offers thousands of free, unlimited downloads from independent artists. Whenever you download music you are agreeing to make your email available to the artist so that they can send you promotional announcements. To participate in Jamendo you must sign up for a free profile. The site is very user-friendly and you do not need to download additional software, so you can begin discovering new artists and downloading free music within minutes of signing up.
Free Music Archive
Like MP3.com and Jamendo, FMA offers music from independent artists only, and it is as straight-forward as a download site can be: You browse for music and click the download button for free mp3s -- no sign-up requirements and no download limits. The quality of the music is high because FMA hires curators to screen artists who submit music. This feature sets them apart because the other indie-only sites allow anyone to set up a profile and make their music available. Although everything is free, the site does encourage donations to help with their operation costs.
ReverbNation also features independent artists only, but it focuses more on up-and-coming artists of every musical genre who might be signed to mainstream labels and are on the verge of breaking out. Almost every artist on this site offers free downloads, and there are no download limits. It is free to create a profile and sign up even if you are not a recording artist. Designed primarily as a promotional tool for artists, the site provides many opportunities to support your favorite new artists, even donating money directly to them through their ReverbNation page.
New Trends in Legal Downloading
Thankfully, legal downloads of music are plentiful on the Internet. Some sites offer free downloads, especially those that feature independent artists, but most sites charge you a monthly fee then grant you unlimited download access to their libraries. In addition to these reputable sites, many bands, including major label artists, will post free downloads from their home pages as a promotional tool. Some, in fact, have taken this approach a step further.
The Coming Revolution of the Creative Commons License
Although downloading music from any of the sources mentioned above is legal, it is illegal to share the music you download unless the artist has registered the song with a Creative Commons License. Trent Reznor, the singer for Nine Inch Nails and How To Kill Angels, is a recent example of an artist who issues Creative Commons Licenses with his songs and allows his fans to freely share his music. Despite not charging for his downloads, he makes millions of dollars a year selling collectible merchandise linked to the music giveaways. Because his fans can freely share his music, thousands of them have created YouTube videos for his songs, which produces free publicity for Reznor.
A New Era in Music
In the 2000s major labels fought hard against people who illegally downloaded songs. Although they still combat the black market of song sharing, many labels have given up and embraced the paradigm shift. With the advent of YouTube and Pandora, the listener can now legally stream music for free and avoid downloading or purchasing altogether. As a result, a new business model for music is emerging. Labels are slowly moving away from album sales as their epicenter. Instead, it's all about offering additional merchandise and collectible items bundled with the music to give the fan a reason to buy. In the future, look for even lower subscription fees from music download sites as this new business model gathers steam.