I’m not sure when my conscience kicked in. Maybe it was halfway through downloading another Rolling Stones album for free and realizing that I might be depriving Mick Jagger of money to buy another mansion. For whatever reason, I decided I was going cold turkey. No more illegal music downloading for me.
Only one problem: At 99 cents a song, iTunes and similar paid music sites can be costly. I decided there must be a better way — and I think I’ve found it.
The secret is in knowing that bands today earn most of their money from touring and merchandising. To attract new fans to their concerts, they’ll often give away songs for free online. If you know where to look, you can assemble a treasure trove of music without paying a penny, no matter what your tastes may be. “If you’re into Scandinavian bagpipe music, there’s probably a site for you,” says Ian Danzig, publisher of music magazine Exclaim. To see what’s on, visit these sites:
I’ve been stuffing my iPod from this Luxembourg-based website, which pays musicians by selling ads on the site. Most of the albums are by lesser-known artists, so don’t expect to find any U2 or Madonna. But half the fun is discovering new music. In my case that includes a crazy Brazilian surf band called the Dead Rocks and the wonderful voice of Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe.
Another place packed mainly with independent artists. But with regular visits it’s easy to stock up on free songs from well-known acts like Ani DiFranco and the Stills. There’s also some good jazz and a bit of classical.
Who says your music has to be on your hard drive? Seeqpod is like an Internet radio station — except you program the tunes. Once you’ve created a playlist, you can go back again and again to hear it. “To me, it doesn’t matter that I don’t own the music,” says Danzig who uses Seeqpod at work and at home.
There’s good news and bad news about SpiralFrog. The good news is there’s over three million songs for free from a who’s who of stars like Aerosmith, Rianna, Coldplay and Keith Urban — all of whom are paid through advertising. The bad news: songs are delivered in a format called WMA rather than the more popular MP3, so they won’t work on an iPod. Plus, downloaded songs will freeze up if you fail to re-register on the site every 60 days. Still, there’s not another place on the Internet with this many free albums from major stars. Including the Stones. Which means you get the music you want, and Mick can still afford his next dream home.