How to find free music online: We reveal our 5 favorite sources for scoring free tunes

It’s becoming harder to find, but we’ll show you where to get free music free without raising the hackles of the RIAA’s legal beagles.

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NoiseTrade is a platform for artists to connect with fans. Artists offer people free music in exchange for their email address and postal code. You can download all the free music you want, all you have to do is agree to a few promotional emails every now and then. Most of the artists on NoiseTrade are independent and/or lesser-known, and bigger major-label artists will usually not post full albums on the site—just EPs.

noisetrade main page

To download music from NoiseTrade, you’ll first need to create a free account, which requires you to enter your email address, a password, and your zip code. By downloading music, you also agree to subscribe to periodic emails from NoiseTrade and the artist (though you can unsubscribe from these emails).

Once you have an account, you can browse through NoiseTrade albums by genre to find the songs you want. You can only download albums—not individual tracks—on NoiseTrade. To download an album, click on the Download Music button from the album’s main page. You’ll need to confirm that you’re okay with trading your email address and zip code for the music, and then your album will download as a zipped file.

noisetrade tip

You’ll also have the opportunity to share your selection with social media, or leave a tip for the artist. Before you download an album, you can listen to full versions of the individual tracks from the album’s main page. Tracks from NoiseTrade vary in quality, MP3s with bitrates between 192kpbs to 320kbps, but come with album art.


While most free music sites specialize in up-and-coming and independent artists, Freegal is a little different. This music archive doesn’t have every hot pop song in the top 40, or anything, but it does have newer music from bigger artists. Right now you can find “Cheerleader,” by OMI; “Fight Song,” by Rachel Platten; and “Shut Up and Dance,” (acoustic) by Walk The Moon available for download. Freegal tracks come with album art and are good-quality MP3s with bitrates of 256Kbps.

The difference between Freegal and the other free music sites we’ve talked about is that it requires a library membership from a participating library. While this might seem like a big hoop to jump through, many public libraries—including my home library, the Los Angeles Public Library—are members. To find out if your library participates, check your library’s website or use Freegal’s library finder.

freegal main page

Freegal allows you to download a certain number of songs per week, depending on the agreement your library has with the service. For the LAPL, it’s five tracks per week. You can also stream music directly from Freegal’s website, though some libraries also have a streaming limit (the LAPL does not).

To download a song from Freegal, login to your library’s Freegal page and find the song you want to download. Click on the play button to play a full streaming version of the song, or click the plus button and choose Download Now to download the song.

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Once you click the Download Now song, you automatically use up one of your downloads—whether or not you actually save the track to your computer. If something happens and you’re unable to save the track right away, you can find your recent downloads in the Downloads section and re-download a song up to two more times.

Editor's note: This is a complete update to a much earlier story. You can find the original piece preserved here

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