Though Vimeo is best known as a video-sharing website, it actually boasts a huge music library. Many of the songs are associated with videos, but you can use the “music search” tool to sort through — and download — isolated MP3 tracks as well. The site contains a library of more than 100,000 tracks, nearly half of which are free, and users can search via genre, mood, tempo, instrumentation, and sound effects to find what they’re looking for.
If you’re looking for music to use in your own projects, Vimeo also offers a drop-down menu that allows you to sort tracks by license type. A “recommendations” tab is also available for regular users, however, most of the free music available through the site is fairly esoteric stuff, meaning you’re unlikely to encounter many artists you’re familiar with.
PureVolume deals with aspiring artists in order to help promote people who are relatively unknown in the music world, acting as a social media platform where both listeners and artists can create profiles and discuss musical interests. Listeners can also write about artists they like and share songs among friends, as well as contact musicians directly to talk about their favorite tracks. Likewise, artists can write updates about their music or reach out to a burgeoning fan base, if desired.
All downloads are legal, and while the majority of the songs are free, there are some premium tunes which users can buy or stream for free on the site. Artists can also upload music and create a custom profile for free, and users can filter search results by song, name, genre, or even whether the artist is signed or unsigned. PureVolume is a great way to learn about artists you otherwise wouldn’t likely encounter, especially given the site offers plenty of music news and interviews with up-and-coming artists.
Live Music Archive is essentially a partnership between Internet Archive and etree.org, a community dedicated to providing high-quality, lossless versions of live concerts. You can think of it as a bootlegger’s paradise given the site’s sheer abundance of concert material, much of which focuses on jam bands such as the Grateful Dead, String Cheese Incident, and Sound Tribe Sector 9. Still, there’s a host of other bands to choose from — The Smashing Pumpkins, Jack Johnson, Animal Collective, etc. — along with plenty of genres to browse, ranging from jazz to reggae.
Navigation is a bit of a chore due to the overwhelming wealth of content, but there are ways to filter the results by title, publish date, or by original creator. Once you find a particular show, you can often stream or download the individual tracks as a FLAC or MP3, allowing you to play the tracks in your media player of choice. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t ensure a quality performance.
When Last.fm was initially created in 2002, it functioned as an internet radio station in similar fashion to Pandora and iHeartRadio. In 2005, however, the site adopted Audioscrobbler, a music recommendation system that collects data from dozens of media players and music streaming websites to craft individual user profiles that reflect musical taste and listening habbits. Last.fm has now “scrobbled” info from nearly 100 billion plays, which total more than seven million years’ worth of listening.
Unbeknownst to many Last.fm users, though, is the site’s repository of free music. It’s accessible via the “Free Music Downloads” link at the bottom of the page — or here — and offers a fairly diverse library of free music, ranging from Sufjan Stevens to The Glitch Mob. It’s an eclectic, limited, and totally free.
Rap lovers rejoice! Since the mid-aughts, the hip-hop community has become a veritable breeding ground for free music, much of which comes in the form of mixtapes. Some are original compilations by artists looking to cop some shine, some feature rappers freestyling over popular instrumentals from their contemporaries, and some are just drops by artists looking to reward their loyal fans with some free tunes — we’re looking at you, Curren$y.
DatPiff is also the only site on this list that consistently offers free music from mainstream artists — think Future and Drake — and remains the number one spot for fans to download new tapes, view release schedules, and listen to fan-made compilation albums. The site even features a pop-out player so you can listen before you download, as well as a news aggregator that collects stories from sites like HipHopEarly.