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Thursday, November 08, 2007

There is nothing like a free lunch, but there is free music

Cheat the Music Industry: Never Pay for Music
Despite the continual legal pursuit of music file-sharing "criminals" by the "RIAA ( )"<>, the ability to find great music and create a significant music library at virtually no cost is still quite feasible. So we'll start by dividing this into categories and giving a few examples of what we know. But it's up to you to fill in the blanks.

THE GOOD (Legal and Somewhat Free)
Rhapsody.com
Rhapsody.com is a site that offers free streaming of music from all the major labels (their site says they have over 4 million tracks). You get 25 free pays a month. Not bad considering it's totally free. There are ads, but they don't require you to look at them before listening to music. After you run out of your 25, they ask you to sign up for a membership. If you don't want to sign up for a membership, you can just wait for your 25 to refill in a month.
Hint: if you listen to less than 30 seconds of a track, it doesn't count towards your monthly 25.

Napster.com
Another free streaming website. Unlimited plays from a huge selection. The music is "paid" for by the advertisements that appear on the flash-player pop-up.

Concert Vault
In 2003, Wolfgang's Vault acquired master recordings from the archives of Bill Graham Presents. These live concerts were recorded at legendary venues like the Fillmore East and Winterland between 1965 and the late 1980s.

Since we launched it in late 2006 the Concert Vault has offered high quality streamed versions of all of our concerts for free, with no advertising.

Amie Street
Offers music downloads with a very innovative fee structure - tracks start out free, and the price scales with the number of people who download them, capped at 98 cents. There is even the possibility of making money - if you recommend a track before it rockets up in price, you are rewarded with store credit. Has a large and growing selection, including the Barenaked Ladies, Tiesto, Jonathon Coulton, etc. Also recently announced a large amount of funding from Amazon.

Lala.com
Lala.com launched in June 2006 as a membership service that facilitated CD swaps. The site lets music fans list the CDs they own and the CDs they want, and then it arranges trades. Each transaction costs $1.75, which pays for a nifty Netflix-like envelope, 75 cents in shipping, a roughly 20-cent honorarium deposited into a trust fund for artists, and, of course, a fee for the middleman. Lala.com's founder, Bill Nguyen says a portion of this fee goes to the performers. This may also temporary assuage the suit-happy RIAA. The arrangement exploits a loophole in copyright law: While distributing duplicates is verboten, it's perfectly legal to trade your own property. (And there's nothing to prevent Lala users from ripping a copy of a disc before they send the original off to someone else.) In February 2007, Lala added CD sales to its offerings.

Starting in November, Lala will offer unlimited on-demand streams of music from two of the four major labels (the company's still negotiating with the other two) using the internet radio station that Lala.com owns, WOXY. Users can immediately buy any track they hear on WOXY.

Last.fm
Last.fm is a social music site that allows users to subscribe to radio stations based on their tastes and favourite artists. It is possible to use the service from within popular music players on Windows, Linux or OS X, though it does rely on having a decent internet connection with no caps or limits. The range of music available is very good, and the intention behind the site is to expose listeners to stuff they may not have experienced. Major label artists are well represented, but it's also pretty simple to add and tag your own content to the site if you're a producer.

Deezer.com
A free radio site, with excellent selection.

Spiralfrog.com
Spiralfrog offers free music downloads from a large library, in exchange for clicking through a certain number of ads per month.

Ruckus.com
Only available to college students.

Archive.org
Founded in 1996, Archive.org features an enormous live concert vault, an interesting selection of offerings from various indie labels, and a library of music podcasts from shows such as Afropop Worldwide. A great site to spend a few hours exploring when you're ready to seriously expand your musical horizons.

Magnatune.com
" Listen free to over 500 hand-picked complete albums. If you like what you hear, download an album for as little as $5 (you pick the price), or buy a real CD, or license our music for commercial use. You'll get MP3s & WAVs, and no copy protection (DRM), ever."

THE BAD (Mostly Legal & Mostly Free)
IRC

THE UGLY (Illegal & Free, unless they catch you)
Torrents, torrents, torrents. Without a doubt, torrents can be the easiest way to share music (as well as other media formats) without cost and the center of the latest attack by the recording industry on the "free from fee" community. In case the use of the BitTorrent protocal momentarily escapes you, check our rather thorough How To Use BitTorrent .

The way files are shared using the BitTorrent protocol is through torrent trackers. The list of torrent trackers seems to be growing daily but here's a few of the most notable ones.

The Pirate Bay - BOiNK
Indisputably the most notorious of torrent trackers, these Swedes constantly thumb their noses at legal threats and stern warnings alike. In addition their main website, they also maintain music specific site BOiNK, a descendant of OiNK, a site that was most recently, shuttered.
"The success of BOiNK will mainly depend on the former OiNK community, who will be asked to upload their old OiNK torrents," says TorrrentFreak's Ernesto, the Pirate Bay's blogging Voice To The World.

Blin.com
Thomas Crampton, who writes for the New York Times and others, has posted an interesting interview Kaiser Kuo of Ogilvy, a Chinese PR firm. Kuo talks about up and coming Chinese web services, specifically Blin.cn, which Kuo claims offers streaming downloads at 50 times the speed of BitTorrent and can play DVD quality video in near real time.

Albumbase
This site allows users to download entire albums for free. Rather than sharing files from their own computers, users upload compressed folders containing entire albums to sites like Rapidshare that host sub-100MB files for free. Then, they submit the temporary Rapidshare URL to Albumbase. Their motivation? Users who submit links earn points that can be redeemed for cash prizes.

Once the albums' URLs are in the Albumbase system, other users then browse or search those albums and download them from their temporary locations. When the links expire, users can notify the system easily, so dead links get weeded out and replaced by live ones in near-real-time.

The site requires confirmed email registration (for the advanced version of the service, cellphone number confirmation), and the file hosting sites that provide the backbone for the service might keep logs of the IP addresses of uploaders and downloads. The RIAA has a potential trail to follow in order to sue users of the service, but rather than providing subpoena-ing an ISP with an IP address in order to identify an alleged infringer the way they normally do, the RIAA lawyers would have to use the service to get a temporary link for a file and then subpoena the service providing the link. These companies are often located abroad, which could turn Albumbase into a major headache for the record industry (but a potential source of solace for ousted OiNK users).

TorrentReactor

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