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I love getting good stuff for free, especially music. Ever since I stopped illegally downloading music back in my college days – out of joyful obedience to God, who wanted to restore my integrity in this area – I have had a hobby of finding ways to get music for free, legally. I get plenty of new music every year; I rarely buy any of it.

I offer up here a quick guide on how to get free music. I'm not highlighting sites that give out a few free songs of their choosing (usually promotional singles from artists); there are too many of those sites to list. This approach here is not "let's see what free songs this or that site throws at me and hopefully discover some good new artists." Rather, these are the sites I go to when I want a particular album, or music from a particular artist, and think, "I wonder if I can get that for free." Here's what I try, in order.

First: Freegal is a service that your local library may have enrolled in that lets you download some number of tracks each week, paid for by your library (Los Angeles County libraries currently offer a generous five tracks per user per week!). Despite being courtesy of your library, these mp3s are not for borrowing; they are for keeps – no DRM, no return required. Freegal has a very large catalog available and is the best free music service I know of right now, so it is well worth checking to see if your city/county library is enrolled.

Second: Free All Music is a Facebook page with a "Premium Access" page that currently lets you download one song per week in exchange for sitting through a long commercial. It's slightly time-consuming and clunky, but it's a good way to grab a song or two that aren't on Freegal, or chip away at an album over several weeks. They've had a spotty track record, often going months without an advertiser willing to sponsor downloads, so don't be surprised if this option dries up for a while in a few weeks or months.

Third: Amazon MP3 will periodically dish out promotional credit codes, usually for $1 but sometimes for larger amounts. There's no easy way to find these except to search "amazon mp3 credit" with results filtered to the past month (since deal sites are littered with expired promotions). You'll often have to do something like download a free app for your Android device. This is the ultimate fallback option for me – it's extremely hit and miss, and perhaps too much work to be worth it – but since Amazon MP3 carries virtually all available music, I've used this to get tracks for free that I can't get free any other way. Note that newer, popular songs go now for $1.29 so you'll be out of luck even with a free $1 credit.

Keep in mind that you can basically get double from any of these services if you, like me, have a spouse (or someone else) who is more than happy for you to do whatever you want with his or her library card / Facebook account / Amazon account for the sake of getting free music. Just log out, log in, repeat.

Finally, here are a two sites that, while they offer up a much narrower set of music, are definitely worth keeping in mind:

Classic Cat is an unassuming little site that catalogs free, legal downloads of classical music from across the web. You can easily look up works by composer, or even by instrument, and see what (if any) recordings are being offered for free online.

Noisetrade offers free samplers and albums from artists both well-established and under-the-radar. I've found plenty here from my favorite singer-songwriters, bluegrass musicians, and rappers, so chances are you'll find something that will delight you. This is also a great place to discover new artists.

Do you know any other places to get good, free music? If so, please share!

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