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4/13/09

Free Music Archive: Free MP3s, and yes, they're legal


Do you like free music? Who doesn’t? If you’ve been downloading music illegally because you’re just too strapped for cash to go out and buy the record — because that’s the only reason you would do that, right? — then there’s a new solution for you. WFMU, one of America’s most renowned freeform radio stations, recently launched FreeMusicArchive.org. Still in beta, the site does just as the title says: provides a treasure chest of free music.

The Free Music Archive is an interactive library with over 5,000 high-quality, legal MP3 downloads. Each MP3 is pre-cleared for uses that would otherwise be illegal by “outdated copyright law.”

“Radio has always offered the public free access to new music. The Free Music Archive is a continuation of that purpose, designed for the age of the Internet,” the FMA said on its Web site.

You’re not going to find any Top 40 tunes or classic hits on the FMA. Instead, you’ll have access to lesser-known artists. Unless you’re interested in branching out and seeking new music, this is not the site for you. Not only does the FMA provide you with new tracks to listen to, but without having to worry about copyright laws, podcasters will be able to use pod-safe audio, radio and video producers will be able to find instrumental bed music, and musicians can create remixes.

“Inspired by Creative Commons and the open source software movement, the FMA provides a legal and technological framework for curators, artists, and listeners to harness the potential of music sharing,” the FMA site says.

All of the music has been hand-picked by established audio-curators, including KEXP, dublab, KBOO, ISSUE Project Room, and CASH Music.

The site allows you to browse by curator or by genre. Choose from 12 main genres, like country, rock, hip-hop, or jazz. Most of the genres have sub-categories, like Americana or bluegrass for the country genre.

You’re not likely to find entire albums on here, but instead, you can get a taste of a new artist, and then follow the link to buy the full album. Each artist has an artist page with a bio and links to their home page so users can learn more about the musician. Also, users can “tip” an artist if they like what they hear. Tipping an artist sends money directly to the artist’s PayPal account, meaning no major record labels are profiting off of you.

You don’t have to register to download music, but there are social media aspects to the site which require registration. As a registered member, which is still free, you can create friend lists, leave comments, become fans of the content, write blog posts, and create mixes.

If you visit the site and are overwhelmed by the magnitude of artists you’ve never heard of, try WFMU’s sample collections Volume 1 and Volume 2 to hear some new music.

The site is still in beta, but more features will be added in the future.

[Via LifeHacker, ReadWriteWeb]

Jennifer BergenJennifer R. Bergen is a journalist and blogger living in New York City. See her full profile and disclosure of her industry affiliations.

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