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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Definitive Guide to Free Music + the Internet

The vastness of the Internet is home to a myriad of entertainment sources, particularly music. Traditionally, getting your tunes meant walking into your local music store and purchasing CDs (or heaven forbid, vinyl!) Naturally this implies cost and money. As you'll see, though, the Internet is an excellent channel for satisfying your musical fix quickly without costing you a penny.


In order of increasing tech-savviness:

  1. Streaming Audio/Video - YouTube is the most prominent player in this category, but innumerable other sites exist. Unofficial user creations as well as official releases can be found - just be wary of the often disorganized nature and varying quality.
  2. Online Radio - With the likes of Shoutcast, Pandora, and, online radio services provide a user-friendly solution. In exchange for ads or partial tracks, people can listen to both mainstream and indie artists.
  3. Music Portals/Sites - iTunes and the Zune Store might be great for those willing to fork over some dough, but people often don't realize that free music download joints exist as well. The service that comes to mind first is SpiralFrog. In exchange for an ad-laden site and heavily DRM'ed Windows Media Audio files, you get the latest tunes for free. For college students who have a .edu email address, a somewhat more polished service exists - Ruckus. Like SpiralFrog, they force you to live with an onslaught of website ads and WMA DRM. It's a difficult choice - pay for "free" non-DRM music, or pay nothing for "locked" DRM tracks?
  4. Other P2P - Besides BitTorrent, a number of other P2P networks exist. Think Frostwire/Limewire, Ares, etc. In my humble opinion, centralized, node-based P2P networks are on their way out. Nevertheless, you will likely find a decent array of music out there. Beware, though - files are often improperly/incompletely tagged and quality varies from amazing to abysmal. Additionally, the risk of coming across a malicious/fake file is significant.
  5. BitTorrent - I would have lumped this with P2P in general, but the extraordinarily high prevalence of music on BT deserves a special mention. Public trackers like Mininova and The Pirate Bay provide a respectable mix of more mainstream/well-known artists. For the tech-savvy, elite private trackers such as Waffles and serve up a delectable variety of lesser-known works; high quality releases are the norm with lossless FLAC rips of entire albums. In general, one can expect high quality when using BitTorrent - usually, tracks are properly named and labeled, and of consistent bitrate.

Whatever route you decide to go with, realize that getting good music doesn't mean forking over an arm or leg for a new album. Countless other listeners out there enjoy good music as much as you, and, especially in the case of P2P, have been kind enough to share their musical treasures with you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Also and
hypem has some great remixes