Music can fill an otherwise empty, boring hour, help you concentrate while you work, and make you relax when you’re stressed. It’s not the food of love (we have chocolate for that) but it can indeed help you explore and formulate your emotions.
All of these qualities, along with the ability to listen to it on your phone (using earphones, because we’re not savages), make music a must-have for most of us. It can end up costing you a lot, though: streaming Spotify over mobile data for one hour a day adds up to about 6 gigabytes over a month’s time. This can easily blow your data cap right out of the water unless your cell service provider is nice enough to offer free music streaming. Ideally, what we need is to find free music downloads so we can store tracks on any device and listen to the tunes whenever we feel like it.
Table of Contents
- 1 A Short Disclaimer
- 2 The Best Places to Find Free Music Downloads
- 3 Download Free Music for Casual Listening
- 4 Where Content Creators Can Find Free Music to Download and Use
A Short Disclaimer
This article will show you where to find free music to download. You should know one thing before you continue reading, though: ProMoneySavings is not in the business of promoting illegal activity, including copyright piracy. If nothing else, staying within the law tends to be the best long-term strategy in a purely financial sense. All the websites and apps listed below are therefore legit and don’t host pirated music downloads. This will, in some cases, mean that the latest hit single you’re interested in isn’t available on any given platform, at least for a while or not for free.
Don’t let that put you off the idea of music downloads free of copyright issues, though. Expand your melodic boundaries instead: many artists only became far more famous than their equally talented peers due to heavy promotion by their record label. In fact, advertising within music itself is quickly becoming the norm, and it’s often not the actual musicians who benefit. If supporting real creativity and new sounds is important to you, you may want to make a point to download free music. An artist signed to a label typically receives only 10% to 15% of the streaming service’s payout; with indie bands, this may be as high as 100%. Those replacement strings won’t buy themselves, after all.
The Best Places to Find Free Music Downloads
There are a couple of factors to consider when it comes to selecting a free music provider: the range of songs and artists they carry, especially in your preferred genres, the audio quality you can expect, whether you plan to listen mainly on a PC or mobile device, and whether they have free music to download, store, and play even when offline. Just in case, you may also want to check what they may offer besides music downloads free of charge, even if this means paying a few dollars a month for the service. Some things to watch out for include higher-quality audio, the ability to use downloaded songs in your own Youtube videos, and advance access to new releases.
In any case, aside from downloading the app and (usually) having to create a free account with them, there’s really nothing to stop you from using any of the options listed below. This means that you can always get two or three of them without any issues coming up. Let’s see what’s on offer:
Download Free Music for Casual Listening
One of the best yet sometimes overlooked parts of the internet is how easy it makes starting your own radio station. There are literally thousands upon thousands of these broadcasting today, providing even the fussiest listener with something to enjoy.
Unfortunately, this medium has a couple of drawbacks. Even the station you like best may still play songs you despise, ads are a given, you can’t easily download the tracks you like, and sometimes annoying people talk right over the music. If you just want to kick back with some tunes in the car or at home, free music downloads allow you to enjoy a variety of music without having to purchase each song or album separately.
Spotify is one of the more well-established brands in the music streaming space and is, for many people, synonymous with free music downloads. As such, they have a huge catalog that strikes a good balance between new and well-known artists and feature compatibility with a wide range of devices.
Besides their free service, they offer four types of paid accounts, with the “Individual” variety costing $9.99 per month at present unless you can find a good deal somewhere (students pay $4.99, for instance). Practically speaking, the main reasons not to use the free version are that the audio and on-screen ads can get annoying, and that you won’t be able to listen to your Spotify library unless connected to the internet. Users of the free version also can’t choose to listen to a particular song at any time, though creating your own custom playlists is allowed.
The Verdict: Pretty much the streaming platform against which all others are measured, Spotify distinguishes itself by the amount of material it hosts, but the limitations of the free app may make you look elsewhere.
The Napster wars of the late 90s taught us two things. Firstly, laws and the way they’re enforced are at least five and sometimes twenty years behind the pace of technology. Less importantly to society as a whole, making music free doesn’t really decrease record labels’ profits by much if at all, but when indie bands have free music to download, the resulting exposure enables them to compete with established names on a much more even footing.
Most music streaming services embrace this fact, but for Jamendo, it’s a core part of their mission statement. This means that you may not be able to find your favorite mainstream artists here, but the website hosts an enormous variety of lesser-known bands, mainly concentrated in the hip-hop, electronica, indiepop, and rock genres. There are over half a million tracks to sift through and, since most of them aren’t signed to any record label, the artists get a larger cut of the proceeds.
Finding or sharing something you like is pretty easy, as Jamendo’s social media system is much more comprehensive than that of (say) SoundCloud. You can listen to their themed radio stations or stream music on demand, and also download free music once you register with them. If you plan to re-use any of this or upload your own work, just select the appropriate account option.
The Verdict: As this free music downloading service is heavily slanted towards independent, up-and-coming artists, the quality of what you’ll hear varies greatly – keep an open mind.
Like Jamendo, Last.fm is an internet radio station. What even most of their listeners don’t know, though, is that you can download free music from them nearly to your heart’s content. Just scroll down to the very bottom of the page and click the curiously innocuous “Free Music Downloads” link under “Goodies”.
The search function isn’t fantastic: you can either scroll through the latest releases or look up a song by band or genre. Their collection isn’t extensive, either, but it’s also surprisingly up to date and well-rounded in every genre you can name.
The Verdict: Last.fm isn’t the place to go if you’re looking for truly obscure tracks or unknown artists, but it’s well worth a visit if you enjoy listening to radio playlists and want a little more control over what you hear.
Amateur musicians should probably look at this one first, which works through either a mobile app, Xbox One, Chromecast, or web interface. One of the coolest features of SoundCloud is that users can easily upload their own music and podcasts; you can even find some basic DJ tools on the website itself. This also results in official song versions getting mixed up with homebrew tracks in the search results. Fortunately, unlike with many free music streaming services, you can skip tracks as often as you want rather than listen all the way through a cover version of Metallica’s Enter Sandman on the harmonica.
Like with Spotify, SoundCloud doesn’t give you the option of reading the lyrics of what you’re listening to – very few apps that let you download free music do. SoundCloud’s free app does however let you build playlists or let the app do so based on your stated preferences and listening habits, follow your favorite artists, and even save (some) songs to your device. You won’t, unfortunately, find all the music you’re interested in on the free version: the most popular singles of a hot new album will probably be there, but you’re out of luck if you want to listen to the rest.
Probably due to Apple’s policy of taking a portion of all in-app purchases, the iOS basic and premium programs (called Go and Go+) are slightly more expensive than the Android and desktop plans. Most casual listeners who get hooked by the free version will want the $9.99/$12.99 per month Go+ option. This allows offline listening, which is what most people think of as real music downloads, 256kbps instead of 128kbps quality, and a much larger track library. A couple of premium programs are available for content creators, especially those who want their work featured on platforms besides SoundCloud.
The Verdict: SoundCloud is a pretty good option to upload and download free music, but you’ll soon start feeling the limitations of the unpaid version.
Many people believe that any song recorded before 2015 must be a joke, but there’s a lot to be said for music that’s still played and loved after a couple of centuries. If this makes sense to you, check out MusOpen, one of the greatest sources of classical music downloads free of charge.
Music students of any level of proficiency will love this website, as it also provides you with tons of downloadable sheet music and some educational resources that can keep you busy for hours. No registration is needed to stream or download free music, and you can search by composer, instrument, mood, period, and more.
The Verdict: MusOpen is not for the average teenager, but anyone who’s into classical or instrumental music will go bananas over it. The comprehensive search function and ability to download any track is a huge plus.
Like Jamendo, ReverbNation‘s focus is on developing and promoting younger talents, though this website seems to cast a wider net with regards to genres and styles than Jamendo. More than just a place to download free music, ReverbNation also assists bands with marketing, organizing gigs, and connecting with fans – a number of names you’ll probably recognize got their start on the musician-friendly ReverbNation.
Let’s concentrate on how they can help you find free music to download. Don’t expect too many major bands here, but the community recommendations, fan reviews, a list of trending tracks, and “Crowd Picks” will make it much easier to find an artist with the kind of sound you like. After this, you can subscribe to them and get a notification every time they release something new and even send them messages.
The Verdict: If you’re interested in an app for discovering and downloading new and interesting music, ReverbNation is a strong contender with extra features like finding gigs in your area. If you’re only interested in bands that have already gotten airplay, pass.
DatPiff has long made its mark in the hip-hop community, with sidelines in R&B and rap. Instead of playlists, DatPiff users and curators upload digital mixtapes for others to enjoy.
Most of these are free to listen to and feature big names as well as newer voices, though some can only be streamed and not downloaded. DatPiff is also a great resource for keeping up with current events in the world of hip-hop and getting your hands on merchandise. AudioMack has a more limited selection and fewer tracks to download but is also worth taking a look at.
The Verdict: Without a doubt the best website for free hip-hop music downloads, DatPiff’s mixtape system is an excellent way to keep up with what’s hot.
Live Music Archive
Music played before an audience is always somehow different and more immediate, even when you only watch it years after the fact. The Live Music Archive, a collaborative project by the larger Internet Archive, preserves as many on-stage and informal performances as it can.
A large number of these are from relatively new bands and some don’t come with video, but others are certainly worth watching. If you’ve ever wanted to see iconic but now-defunct bands such as The Smashing Pumpkins perform or listen to below-the-radar jamming sessions from artists who are still active, the Live Music Archive gives you the opportunity.
The Verdict: Some of these recordings are also available elsewhere, including on Youtube. If you’d like to see even rare performances without ads, though, the Live Music Archive is your best friend.
Whereas some websites and apps that allow you to download free music require you to register with your email address, NoiseTrade takes this a short step further by asking you to share your email and ZIP code with the artist whose work you’re downloading. In other words, they’ll probably send you a message if they’re playing a gig in your home town or releasing a new album, but you probably won’t be drowned in spam if you use NoiseTrade. You can also send them a tip of a few dollars if you enjoy their work.
NoiseTrade was bought by Paste Media in 2019 in order to get out of a financial hole (even Spotify, the world’s largest music streaming service, isn’t hugely profitable). Since then, it’s been rolled into a digital magazine format: the same website also allows authors to upload their books and share them in the same way as songs, music videos, and albums. You’ll also find plenty of recommendations and news on TV shows, movies, and current affairs, making Paste a kind of one-stop-shop for entertainment junkies.
The Verdict: Kind of unique in the way it combines not only several genres of music but also multiple forms of entertainment, NoiseTrade on Paste is bound to show you something you like – it works.
Where Content Creators Can Find Free Music to Download and Use
One of the things that turns people off about music streaming services is that you don’t own the music: you only really have a license to listen to it. In many ways, this applies to physical CDs and vinyls too: if you want to play one in a bar or even a large party, you should technically be making royalty payments in addition to what you paid originally.
Strictly speaking, even a guy strumming a guitar on the sidewalk should hand over part of his tips to the original artist or composer, though this is obviously not enforced. If you own a vlog or create any kind of paid or free digital content, however, you really can’t afford to ignore copyright law. Digital media platforms like Youtube have been cracking down on this for some time now: videos have even been removed due to stuff like a radio being audible in the background.
There’s an easy solution to this, though, and you don’t have to hire a lawyer to do it. Simply make use of the services below, and you won’t have a care in the world as far as infringement claims go.
Youtube Audio Library
Youtube is of course best known for the millions of clips it makes available for free, but you may be surprised at what other goodies they have to offer. If you’re filming a video and need to round out the sound, on the other hand, or need some background music for an indie game you’re developing, or even want to add an ambient track to music of your own, the Youtube Audio Library is at your service.
To get to the Audio Library, simply click on your profile picture in the top right corner and select Youtube Studio, create a channel, and select Audio Library from the menu on the left. You can search by genre, mood, and duration as well as by artist and track name. Nearly any sound effect you can think of is also available if you can think of the right keyword for it. A “Play” button allows you to review your choice, while “Download” lets you save it on your computer as an mp3 file to do with as you wish.
The best thing about using this resource is that all the audio hosted here is pretty much guaranteed to have no copyright strings attached. For some, however, you may need to credit the artist; look for a circled CC symbol beside the listing.
The Verdict: In terms of ease of use and range of content, the Youtube Audio Library is pretty much all you need unless you’re a professional sound engineer.
The Free Music Archive
Unlike most services that allow you to download free music, TFMA is a labor of love rather than a multi-million-dollar enterprise. It’s run by a local radio station located in New Jersey, along with plenty of online collaborators from across the world. This website allows you to search through well over a hundred thousand songs from both well-known and indie artists. All of these are free for personal use (like school projects), many can be used in other works without charge (just make sure you understand the terms of the Creative Commons and other licenses), and others can be used commercially for a single payment instead of a per-play royalty.
Photo by DaleshTV
Unlike most websites that allow you to download free music, you don’t need to register or create an account to use TFMA. This project is affiliated with Tribe of Noise, which is well worth looking into if you’re a creator – either a musician of some kind or an artist who needs to use the music of others.
The Verdict: It’s not especially easy to find exactly what you’re looking for on The Free Music Archive, but working with the wonky search interface will often present you with some unique jewels.
If you need some content to really grab the attention of increasingly jaded audiences, this website may have the answer. While both Amazon Audio Library and The Free Music Archive have a ton of songs and sounds to choose from, HookSounds specializes in original soundtracks by a variety of composers.
This can give a far more modern and unique flavor to any type of content. You also won’t find any of the tracks on HookSounds anywhere else: instead of trawling the internet looking for royalty-free music or allowing anyone to upload their creation, all content is carefully curated. Among other things, this means that each track’s tags and mood description are actually accurate, which isn’t always the case on other free music downloads websites.
There is one catch, unfortunately: while HookSounds itself owns all the copyrights and there are no royalties to be paid (i.e. you won’t be charged a fee for each estimated viewer), this music is only free to use if you’re not going to be making money from the work in which it’s incorporated.
The Verdict: If you need new, fresh, or even custom-recorded audio, HookSounds is the way to go. If saving money on a commercial project is a priority, though, something else will work out much cheaper.
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There are plenty of other options when it comes to free music downloads. Some are fairly specialized, like when you want educational music for kids. Others may come bundled with a service you already pay for. Amazon Music’s free version, for instance, is not really worth mentioning in this list of the best websites where you can download music for free. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, on the other hand, you can get on-demand access to over 2 million songs, or 6 million for an extra $7.99 per month. If you’re already paying for something, you might as well use it.
If you know of any apps or websites other readers can use to find free music to download, we’d like it if you could drop the URL in the comments. In particular, we’d enjoy seeing more completely free content in niche but exciting categories, where there is no pay-by-month version the free app is basically just an advertisement for. Thanks for reading!