Opinion: Music for nothing; tracks for free

"I download (legally)," the famous musician says in the hundredth or so ad I've seen that tries to guilt consumers into shopping at online stores like Roxio's Napster 2 and Apple Computer's ITunes. I see where the Recording Industry Association of America is going with that, but I think it's missed the point once again.

Amidst all its campaigning against file sharing, the RIAA lost sight of (or more likely decided to ignore) one thing: There is a bunch of perfectly legal free digital music available on the Internet. Here are a few of my favorite places to find it.

Get your free tunes here

Better Propaganda is a decent music news and reviews site that also happens to host free preview MP3s from bands like Modest Mouse, Interpol, and Guided by Voices. You'll find a bunch of sites offering preview tracks in a similar manner (I've mentioned Pitchfork in previous columns), but few organize them as well as Better Propaganda. Each artist gets their own page on the site with a bio and links to reviews, articles, and hosted MP3s. Not bad.

Beyond preview tracks, there are a bunch of independent and unsigned artists recording who've chosen to make their work freely available for one reason or another. MP3.com used to be the place to find that type of free music. The site hosted files for thousands of unsigned bands and musicians until CNet bought it late last year. Many of those files have made their way over to Garageband.

Other musicians offer their work under a Creative Commons license. Terms vary, but basically such a license allows anyone to freely copy a piece of work as long as certain conditions are met. For example, an artist might stipulate that you can't produce derivative works from the composition, or that copies can be made for noncommercial purposes only.

The upshot is that you can find a bunch of free music (and other interesting stuff) published under this type of license. Head to Common Content for a directory of sites housing Creative Commons content. The Get Content page at the Creative Commons site also has a nice listing, as does the Internet Archive: Open Source Audio page (one of my favorites).

Finally, the Net has also managed to revolutionize the old tape-trading industry, in which über-dedicated fans would swap bootleg tapes, CD-Rs, or DATs of live concerts. Many groups -- jam bands like The Greatful Dead and Phish are famous for it -- support taping as long as fans agree not to sell those recordings. I'm generally not a jam-band kind of guy; but if you are, you'll appreciate Etree.org, a site that helps fans share live recordings of bands that have an open taping policy. The site focuses on lossless compression recordings of the shows (no MP3s), and it's hooked in to BitTorrent, which helps you get downloads faster. Its BitTorrent page even includes helpful options to show or hide all Grateful Dead and Phish recordings.

Quick hits

New ITunes: Apple recently released version 4.5 of its popular media player. Cool new additions include a feature called IMix that lets you publish playlists for others to see, the ability to rip tracks in a lossless compression format, and a new dynamic playlist called "Party Shuffle." The automatic links to ITunes Music store aren't so cool, but you can turn them off easily in Preferences.

File sharing with heart: Wilco's new album A Ghost Is Born isn't due out until June 22, but it's been available for download from file-sharing networks for a while now. Instead of suing its own fans, Wilco came up with a different approach: First it made the new disc available in streaming audio on its Web site. Then it built Justafan.org, which encourages fans who download the tracks before release to make a donation to Doctors Without Borders. At this writing Wilco has raised upwards of US$8,400.

In heavy rotation

Set to stun: I was recently reminded of a band called Phaser and its album "Sway." One of its dreamy electric pop songs popped up on my favorite TV show. I love it when that happens.

Thank you, shuffle play! "Do it Again," a track from Matthew Sweet's overlooked Altered Beast album, popped up on my headphones this week. It's a great track with the beginnings of an electric Wall of Sound feel to it. The album's all over the place musically and probably a bit overproduced, which is why it got overlooked when compared with Sweet's Girlfriend -- which is also amazing.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Eric Dahl

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?