Legal Online Music?

Online music currently sails in turbulent water, but the ship has not sunk. In fact, the very cause of the storm can also be a safe harbor.


Sorry, it’s an old poetry slam injury that flares up now and then. If you go to record company websites you can usually find free music—either as “streams” (you can hear it but not save it), samples (under one minute), but occasionally as downloads. Granted, you won’t find that song they played all last summer, but you can get some new stuff, often before you start hearing it on the radio twenty times a day. Many even offer streaming video in QuickTime, RealAudio, or Windows Media. Check your CD liner notes to find the record label website of your favorite performers.

Another place to find free music is at the artist’s official web site or fan club. You might find a live track, an unreleased song, or the latest single. Again, check the CD liner notes for websites. Try running some of your favorites through a search engine and you may be surprised what you find.

The Internet Underground Music Archive is a place where independent artists can offer their songs for download. You probably won’t find super-stars, but you will find great music by unsigned artists, independent bands, and local talent that you might not hear otherwise. Every music style can be found here too, including Pop/Rock, Classical, Jazz, Country. You can listen to a “stream” of the song before you download.

Beau-dacious Oldies But Goodies offers over 4000 full length songs in Real Audio format available for streaming or download. This is a great place to find classic doo-wap, swing, and oldies.

For fans of Folk, Bluegrass, Celtic and old-timey music, be sure to stop by . Some songs can be downloaded for free by registered users, while others will cost you just under a buck. Since radio stations still ignore this kind of music (despite the popularity of the soundtrack to “O Brother, Where Art Thou”), this is a valuable website indeed.

Paste Music also features downloads and reviews of folk, Americana, blues, Alternative Country and more. has a free music download site too. You’ll find a few major stars along with thousands of independent artists. It’s not as easy to navigate as the previously mentioned sites, but it is worth a visit if you have not filled up your hard drive with music files yet.

Sure, the days of file sharing mp3s a’la Napster are over. Illegal music downloads can bring the recording industry lawyers to your door like wolves to fresh meat, but that doesn’t mean online music is dead. Record companies and artists are aware of the benefits of online music—they mainly just want their cut of the action.

If you’re willing to pay you have a few options:
Music Now

In a few years the storm will calm down. Of course, by then, every music lover will probably think nothing of forking out $1 per song or paying a monthly subscription fee to download music. While the storm rages on, you can sail into some of the safe harbors mentioned here today.

~ David