You don't have to be a pirate to snag free music.
There are plenty of ways to download tunes without stealing from artists, angering labels and getting busted by the RIAA. In fact, there is a selection of sites you can visit to legally and guiltlessly download music for free.
Obviously, you can't download anything you want without busting out your wallet. Despite what some people seem to think, musicians have to eat, too. If you're looking for a legal way to get the latest major label release, you're probably out of luck (although even Coldplay has given away a free song or two). However, there are plenty excellent indie acts who willingly make free tunes - sometimes even entire albums - available on the Web. This gives you the opportunity to not only get something for free, but also discover great stuff you probably wouldn't have otherwise come across. You just need to know where to look.
Here are a few places to start:
- Daytrotter.com - Daytrotter is all about free music, and more importantly, quality free music that you probably don't know but will probably love upon hearing. "We are not giving you songs from someone you love’s record album, thereby stealing from someone you love," states the site. We’re giving you exclusive, re-worked, alternate versions of old songs and unreleased tracks by some of your favorite bands and by a lot of your next favorite bands."
The site features different bands weekly that have recorded sessions at Daytrotter's studio in Rock Island, IL. As a result, there's plenty to offer in terms of Chicago bands, including exclusive sessions by The 1900s, Andrew Bird, Bound Stems, Catfish Haven, The Changes, The M's, Office, The Ponys and The Redwalls, to name a few.
- CLLCT.com - CLLCT, otherwise known as "The Collective Family," is a sort of MySpace for indie musicians who care more about people hearing their music than getting paid for it. In fact, the site's home page firmly states, "We want our music heard, not sold. We're a bunch of artists that make music and then give it out for free." There's some awesome cartoon owls under that, which in my opinion makes it even cooler.
CLLCT is an appealing blend of social networking, indie music, freeness and "to hell with 'the man'" attitude, which makes it a great place to visit. To start, check out Chicago musician James Eric.
- Last.fm - This site, which allows you to keep track of the music you play and builds personal charts around it, offers weekly free downloads as well as tracks from many indie bands that you can download at any time. In addition, it lets you sample albums in their entirety. Sure, MySpace music profiles allow you to sample a few tracks, but Last.fm features a surprising amount of albums - even many commercially popular albums - available to play in full. It's totally on the up and up because you can't download the tracks, and serves as a convenient way to decide whether or not a release is worth buying. Check out full albums by Chicago band May or May Not, for example.
- Download.com - Once known solely for its free and trial software downloads, download.com now offers a selection of free downloadable music. Head over to the site for indie tracks, but also the occasion tune from a classic band.
- GarageBand.com - GarageBand is "The Web's largest independent music community and home to the definitive charts of the best emerging artists," which means there's no shortage of music up for grabs. This ones nice because you can easily search by location and genre. Looking for alternative pop from Chicago? Or maybe punk or folk? This site's got it all covered.