So where do you start? There are obviously thousands of hours of recorded sound available legally for free, but it is quite easy to get lost, and to end up with a large amount of downloaded music that is not representative of what is out there.

These are the places I go when I want something new to listen to and don’t have any credits left on eMusic:

  • Last.fm have a page of freely available (but not always freely distributable) songs available at http://www.last.fm/home/freemp3s
  • For an example of a site that makes individual songs available in the “sampler” model, try http://www.jagjaguwar.com/mp3.php. I’ve bought a lot of music based on listening to things downloaded from here.
  • Jamendo (http://www.jamendo.com/en/albums) have a vast array of great music licensed under Creative Commons. They also have a lot of recordings that should probably have never been made. I spend a fair bit of time playing “spot the difference”.
  • The Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org/) has a lot of free music available, and if you look closely you’ll find live performances by some fairly major artists, as well as a few things also available on other sites mentioned above.
  • For an example of a net label that understands about free music you could do worse than try http://aaahh-records.net/. They released the Wind Whistles album last year which makes them great in my book.
  • For an example of a single-artist model of distribution, try http://www.joshwoodward.com/music/. I’d recommend almost anything on here really.

I’d like to recommend iTunes singles of the week, but they need to strip the DRM off first. Although I should say that I did buy something on iTunes this week which plays fine in Rhythmbox, so the claims of trying to make their music more accessible to non iTunes/iPod users are not just an empty promise.