Copyright and you:
To start with, all music is covered by national and international copyright law which covers the music composition, the lyrics, and the recorded performance.
Copyright covers the creator’s Right to control how their work is Copied, and under what terms. A copyright on a work does not expire for 70 or 95 years (depending what country) so even if an album or a movie is not available commercially, it is not free unless the copyright owner grants public use terms.
So for most commercial music, you need to purchase it, and downloading free popular music (and movies, and software) from torrents and P2P networks is almost always not legal.
There are several ways you can listen to music for free.
The first free music source is streaming or “internet radio”. Streaming music on the internet can be free, advertiser supported, or can be part of a subscription service. The providers of streaming music pay the copyright holders a royalty based on a broadcast model like radio. Disadvantages are that with some services you don’t get to pick the song you want, when you want, there may be advertisements, the streamed music is usually at low bit-rate and not as high a quality as CD, and it requires a broadband connection to the internet (I suggest you don’t stream music with a cell phone data plan, it will consume a huge amount of MB and may result in high usage charges). In any case, the music is licensed for live listening only, you are not permitted to download and keep the songs.
Many radio stations send their live broadcasts out as a stream as well, Shoutcast http://www.shoutcast.com/ is one index of 50,000+ available stations.
http://www.pandora.com/ (USA only)
http://www.spotify.com/ (Europe only)
http://www.mtv.com/music/ (USA) http://www.mtv.ca/music/ (Canada)
http://www.last.fm/ (signup required)
YouTube videos are a popular way of putting music online, and many bands put their music videos on line there. However it is problematic for other people to upload videos with copyrighted songs in them.
Often, bands will make selected tracks or concerts or alternate mixes available for either streaming or downloadable files. Go to the band or artist’s official website and see what they offer. Downloads offered directly by the artist or band are legal. Famously, Radiohead made an entire new album available for download on a “pay what you want” basis.
There are a huge number of podcasts with concerts, songs, music shows, educational material, radio shows and commentary available. These can be downloaded for listening offline or on a portable player. They are a great source for new music and independent artists. Disadvantage, they tend to be MP3s at a low bitrate
CBC Radio 3 Sessions – concerts
CBC Radio 3 track of the day
CBC R3-30 – music show
NPR All Songs Considered
NPR Fresh Air
NPR Live concerts
Other listings of podcasts
Open license and Creative Commons:
Some artists have released their music under a Creative Commons license, which permits the music to be freely downloaded and shared. Disadvantage – you will not find the latest hits and top artists here.
It has to be said: If you like the music, and if having the songs available for listening anytime is valuable to you, then pay for it and support the artists who create it.
(And, yes, support the companies that produce and distribute it, because that is how the artistic industry works). You can purchase music on CD at local merchants or by the song or album at iTunes, Amazon and other reputable online sites.
(Do not patronize offshore websites that sell ‘legal’ music downloads for 1 to 10 cents per song – those sites are run by criminals and the artists do not see a penny, plus you are risking the security of your identity and charge card information.)
If you want to support an artist but don’t want to support the commercial music industry, then buy your music directly from the artist’s own website, or in person at concerts. Support independent artists who release their own music, support local artists who play at community events, dances, pubs and restaurants.