55-Free and cheap: music, loops and samples

Philosophy

I have a lot of mixed feelings about the issues concerning the downloading, copying, sharing, and cracking of various types of “intellectual proprty” — mainly music in my case, but also software, books, and other creative products.

From one point of view, I’m a record company with several commercial CDs for sale. I’m also a producer/composer, computer user, and consumer of other peoples’ and companies’ creations as well. So I need to find a consistent approach to “new media” that is satisfying simulataneously ethically and practically.

I’m willing to give away samples or CDs for promotional purposes, but if I place no value on them otherwise, I feel like no one else should either. Are peoples’ creations of no value?

But I’m also a music consumer in the broadband age. The idea of listening to a track or CD before buying it is really attractive. Over the last many years, how many of us have purchased the new album unheard from one of our favorite artists/bands and been dismayed at how awful it is? There are a million examples of this. Or worse; you hear one great song, pay $15.99 for a CD and the rest of it is filler.

Legitimate free stuff

This page will concentrate more on free tracks or samples you can get legitimately. See this page for cheap and free music production and audio editing software.

Archive.org

If you look around, you can slake your thirst for free music in a number of places. One of the grandaddies of this is archive.org. This is part of an actual foundation intended to make available untold terabytes of video, audio and the written word for free. Many podcasters, artists, writers and musicians freely donate their work to it.

Jamendo.com

This is just one of the first sites I found in a 1 minute google search for Creative Commons-licensed and/or free music. A lot (all?) of their content is also available at archive.org.

The headline the top of their site describes them in a nutshell:

On Jamendo artists allow anyone to download and share their music. It’s free, legal and unlimited.

As of this writing they have over 35,000 published albums, and 750,000 active members. (In 2011 the site boasted of 288,984 tracks.) Surely you could find SOMETHING that struck your fancy amongst all that. I’m not sure I like their tag-based search feature; but perhaps there is more depth to the site that I am seeing.

KVR Audio

One very cool place with a lot of freely downloadable tracks is the KVR Audio forum. The nice thing about the listening page is that you can use something like FlashGet to download all the mp3 files for later auditioning on a MP3 player. As far as I can tell, all the tracks there are donated freely by the composers.

(Incidentally, let me put in a good word for the entire KVR Audio website; it’s a huge community of musicians using all kinds of tools, with reviews, forums, help, and lots of reference on VST effects and synth plug-ins.)

OLPC (One Laptop Per Child)

This is an amazing project, which you can read about at its site (see the link above). But in particular what interested me was their making available a gigantic (7000 samples amount to 10 GIGABYTES!) archive of audio samples, loops, sound effects and other content for people to use freely in their productions. How amazingly cool was that! The samples are available as dozens of sets which are all described on this page:

OLPC free samples libraries

They are all licensed in what is called Creative Commons “CC-BY” which means effective you can use them without limit. There’s also a way to get the entire set using BitTorrent; see the http://www.laptop.org site for more information.

Page#55 / last edited 20120527