Top 5 Free Music Download Sites

Music Listening
Music Listening. Photo by Paul Bradbury / Getty Images

Sites with an extensive selection of free music downloads are the dream of any serious pop music fan. Unfortunately, legal downloading of most mainstream pop music requires purchasing the song in question. Many of the top sites offering music for purchase will offer an occasional song for free download, or you may pay a monthly subscription for a wide access to music. However, there are a number of web sites that promote lesser known pop artists or classic pop recordings by allowing free downloads of hundreds or thousands of songs. These are five of the best of these sites. To simply listen to songs for free, check out these streaming sites.

Free Music Archive
Courtesy Free Music Archive

The Free Music Archive was launched in April 2009. The site was launched by Jersey City radio station WFMU, but personnel from additional radio stations and labels serve as curators for the music in the archive. The site describes itself as "a social music website built around a curated library of free, legal audio." The New York State Music Fund has assisted in financing the creation of the archive. The Free Music Archive also provides the opportunity to donate directly to compensate participating artists. This site also makes it clear what are permissible uses for the music included. Those uses are determined by the artists themselves meaning some music may only be downloaded for listening while others are cleared for use and distribution in other ways such as background music for an audio or video production.

The contents of the Free Music Archive have been praised for its availability to filmmakers putting together educational and non-profit projects. Among those who make use of music from the Free Music Archive are the Museum of Modern Art, Sunlight Foundation, and StoryCorps. In July 2016, the Free Music Archive celebrated growth of their database to over 100,000 songs. More »

Internet Archive
Courtesy Internet Archive

The Audio Archive is a sub-project of the Internet Archive, a project which aims to collect and make available archived "snapshots" of Internet content for access to researchers and the public in general. The Audio Archive is a collection that includes audio books, news broadcasts, and old time radio shows as well as music. The archive makes available over 200,000 recordings all available for free download.

A massive project of the Audio Archive is the Live Music Archive. It includes over 100,000 concert recordings. Among the treasures included are live concert recordings of the Grateful Dead and Smashing Pumpkins. Jordan Zevon has allowed the archive to host the complete concert recordings of his late father Warren Zevon. The catalog stretches across the years 1976-2001 and includes over 1,000 recordings. A significant number of the live recordings made available through the Audio Archive were first uploaded to the concert sharing community etree. More »

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Jamendo Music
Courtesy Jamendo

Jamendo boasts a collection of 400,000 free and legal tracks. That makes it one of if not the largest compendium of free and legal music available on the Internet. Users have a variety of ways to browse and discover new music and artists. Jamendo was first launched in 2005 and claims to return approximately 50% of revenues to participating artists. In addition, users may make donations to individual artists.

The name Jamendo originated through fusion of the terms "jam session" and "crescendo." Jamendo was originally funded by Mangrove Capital Partners, who also funded the development of Skype. In addition to making free music available to individual music fans, Jamendo has also created a Jamendo Pro system for licensing songs for use in other creative projects and providing background music for public places.

Based in Luxembourg, the database of music on Jamendo is very international in scope. Artists from 150 different countries are represented, and the site is available in six different languages, English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Polish.  More »

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Pure Volume Logo
Courtesy Pure Volume

PureVolume was created in 2003 as a website designed to aid in the promotion and discovery of music by new and rising artists. Music is available both for download and streaming. Recording artists maintain their own profile and they may designate individual songs for streaming only or make them available for free download. Record labels utilize PureVolume as a way to promote their new artists. Among the recording artists credited with gaining early, vital exposure on PureVolume are Gym Class Heroes, Fall Out Boy, and Paramore. In 2010, PureVolume was purchased by SpinMedia. More »

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Sound Click Logo
Courtesy Sound Click

SoundClick considers itself an online social community based around music. Songs included on the site may be streamed, downloaded, or sold. SoundClick maintains daily charts of popularity of music across various genres. 

SoundClick was founded in 1997 by twin brothers Tanju and Tolgar Canli. The site initially used RealAudio streams but later switched to the ubiquitous mp3 format. SoundClick currently claims to host over 4.5 million songs by over 500,000 artists. The community includes more than four million registered members. The social nature of SoundClick allows users to develop profiles that include photos, video, and blog posts.

Artist pages include news, concert dates, and information about upcoming projects. More »