Image via WikipediaIf you are even half the music fan I am, you're always on the lookout for new and exciting stuff to fill your iPod with. A lot of the music I have discussed on the blog to this point has been from my own "Golden Era" of punk rock and new wave, and that is the music that I truly love the most. But I do try to keep an ear to the ground to hear what's bubbling under the mainstream these days, and every now and then something catches that ear.
Most of what's catching my ear these days I'm finding by regularly visiting a few free-and-legal mp3 sites. Doing so is the high-tech equivalent to spending hours picking through the dollar bins at used record shops. You're going to have pick your way through a lot of crappy records to find the gems, but that only makes those wonderful finds sound that much better on your turntable....er, iPod.
I'd like to share with you five of my favorite online sites to find those gems, along with a gem I've found from each in recent weeks. Start poking through the bins yourself - you may just find the next big thing!
#5 - 3Hive
3Hive is a site that was started by three friends who wanted to share good music with others. They brought a few more friends on board over time, and these days a team of seven do the footwork of visiting innumerable record label websites from all over creation and finding the best free promotional mp3's. They link directly to the labels' websites and do very nice, consice and informative write-ups about the artists they feature.
Bryan's Recent Pick from 3Hive: "My Balloon" by Men Without Pants
#4 - Free Albums Galore
Nothing beats truth in advertising! This site is exactly what its name implies - a collection of complete albums and EPs (as opposed to individual tracks as you'll find on many sites) that are offered online, free for the downloading, sometimes by a label but more often than not by the artists themselves. Our mono-named host, Marvin, supplies a widely varied selection of music from jazz to classical to psychedelia to rock to the utterly undefinable. This is the kind of site you can lose hours logged into!
Bryan's Recent Pick from Free Albums Galore: Without You I'm Napping by Japanese Gum
#3 - MP34U
This site uses an open door policy that allows anyone to become part of their team of "sources" who are constantly scouring the Internet for free-and-legal mp3's. Here, you have the option of streaming or downloading each track, and again the variety in genre is wide. So is the notoriety of artists and timeframes for the songs - anything might show up here, so long as it is being offered free and legally somewhere on the web: an early-20th-century blues 78, late 70s punk rock, and country standards sit alongside bands you've never heard of before and may never hear of again. It's a potpourri of music, almost mind-spinning at times but well worth the time to pick through!
Bryan's Recent Pick from MP34U: "My Maudlin Career" by Camera Obscura
#2 - RCRD LBL
As the description from their own FAQ page says, "RCRD LBL is a network of ad supported online record labels and blogs offering completely free music and multimedia content from emerging and established artists." Much of the music offered here is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which means it's already pre-cleared to be shared or remixed, so long as neither are done for commercial purposes. Lots of nifty stuff to find here, and each artist gets their own page worth of description and info. Again, both streaming and downloading options are offered.
Bryan's Recent Pick from RCRD LBL: "Lalita" by The Love Language
#1 - Fingertips
A weekly selection of three free-and-legal mp3s culled into blog form from their main site, each with a well-written explanation of the music and artist. Very often the stuff presented here has not yet been officially released. The music here tends towards the more indy-pop sound on the whole, but the occasional surprise rocker shows up, too.
Bryan's Recent Pick from Fingertips: "Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh" by Say Hi