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Download Free Music Legally

This is part of an article that appeared in Wired Magazine. We have only posted the first part that deals with legal downloads, and have intestinally not listed the illegal download sites.We do not support nor condone the illegal downloading of music or any form of software piracy, but we do encourage our browsers to add Wired Magazine to their browser favorites due to their excellent coverage of the Web 2.0 community.

Cheat the Music Industry: Never Pay for Music

Wired Magazine

Despite the continual legal pursuit of music file-sharing "criminals" by the "RIAA ( )"<>, the ability to find great music and create a significant music library at virtually no cost is still quite feasible. So we'll start by dividing this into categories and giving a few examples of what we know. But it's up to you to fill in the blanks.


Rhapsody.com is a site that offers free streaming of music from all the major labels (their site says they have over 4 million tracks). You get 25 free pays a month. Not bad considering it's totally free. There are ads, but they don't require you to look at them before listening to music. After you run out of your 25, they ask you to sign up for a membership. If you don't want to sign up for a membership, you can just wait for your 25 to refill in a month.

Hint: if you listen to less than 30 seconds of a track, it doesn't count towards your monthly 25.


Another free streaming website. Unlimited plays from a huge selection. The music is "paid" for by the advertisements that appear on the flash-player pop-up.

Concert Vault

In 2003, Wolfgang's Vault acquired master recordings from the archives of Bill Graham Presents. These live concerts were recorded at legendary venues like the Fillmore East and Winterland between 1965 and the late 1980s.

Since we launched it in late 2006 the Concert Vault has offered high quality streamed versions of all of our concerts for free, with no advertising.

Amie Street

Offers music downloads with a very innovative fee structure - tracks start out free, and the price scales with the number of people who download them, capped at 98 cents. There is even the possibility of making money - if you recommend a track before it rockets up in price, you are rewarded with store credit. Has a large and growing selection, including the Barenaked Ladies, Tiesto, Jonathon Coulton, etc. Also recently announced a large amount of funding from Amazon.


Lala.com launched in June 2006 as a membership service that facilitated CD swaps. The site lets music fans list the CDs they own and the CDs they want, and then it arranges trades. Each transaction costs $1.75, which pays for a nifty Netflix-like envelope, 75 cents in shipping, a roughly 20-cent honorarium deposited into a trust fund for artists, and, of course, a fee for the middleman. Lala.com's founder, Bill Nguyen says a portion of this fee goes to the performers. This may also temporary assuage the suit-happy RIAA. The arrangement exploits a loophole in copyright law: While distributing duplicates is verboten, it's perfectly legal to trade your own property. (And there's nothing to prevent Lala users from ripping a copy of a disc before they send the original off to someone else.) In February 2007, Lala added CD sales to its offerings.

Starting in November, Lala will offer unlimited on-demand streams of music from two of the four major labels (the company's still negotiating with the other two) using the internet radio station that Lala.com owns, WOXY. Users can immediately buy any track they hear on WOXY.


Last.fm is a social music site that allows users to subscribe to radio stations based on their tastes and favourite artists. It is possible to use the service from within popular music players on Windows, Linux or OS X, though it does rely on having a decent internet connection with no caps or limits. The range of music available is very good, and the intention behind the site is to expose listeners to stuff they may not have experienced. Major label artists are well represented, but it's also pretty simple to add and tag your own content to the site if you're a producer.


A free radio site, with excellent selection.


Spiralfrog offers free music downloads from a large library, in exchange for clicking through a certain number of ads per month.


Only available to college students.


Founded in 1996, Archive.org features an enormous live concert vault , an interesting selection of offerings from various indie labels , and a library of music podcasts from shows such as Afropop Worldwide . A great site to spend a few hours exploring when you're ready to seriously expand your musical horizons.


" Listen free to over 500 hand-picked complete albums. If you like what you hear, download an album for as little as $5 (you pick the price), or buy a real CD, or license our music for commercial use. You'll get MP3s & WAVs, and no copy protection (DRM), ever."


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