Sunday 1 June 2008

Free Music?

Forget The Charlatans free album, and that terrible Violet-copy-of-everything-else-they've-ever-done-Hill song that Coldplay recently gave away, good quality free music has been sitting around on the Internet for ages. I remember when "download single" meant you could head over to Ash's website and pick up Clones for free...or Slipknot's to download Pulse Of The Maggots, if you're into wearing scary masks and all that. Despite the "digital revolution" (CDs are digital anyway -gasp-, so goodness knows why this term seems to be used exclusively to refer to mp3s), bands are still making their music available to download for free, even though "download single" no longer makes a gleam of triumph appear in the eyes of cheapskates (read: me). Never mind about the one sad little song that iTunes gives away each week (two if you count the promotion with Bebo, which doesn't seem to work half the time anyway and not having a Bebo account I can't really do much about that), there's a lot more than that out there.

Label Samplers:
I was just looking up a band that I only have one track by, Allister (currently on hiatus), to try and get more songs by them, and I came across their label site, Drive-Thru Records. Unfortunately for Little Miss Out Of Pocket, there weren't any more tracks available by Allister, but the label did have a free sampler available for download with a bunch of tracks by their current roster, so I figured it was worth a look at. Click on the featured download box. You may have to download something called Echospin, but this only takes a minute and then you'll be able to get all the mp3s.
Click. Includes tracks by Halifax (no, nothing to do with those irritating bank adverts with the walking purses and suchlike), An Angle and Socratic.

Being a rather bored bean indeed, I decided to type "download label sampler" into Google, in the hope that something would turn up. This was a good decision, as I immediately found a few more bundles of tracks. I clicked on something called Bridge 9, thinking that I had heard that name before. You type your name and e-mail in (if you don't want to part with your personal data then it doesn't matter if it's complete rubbish) and you can download the sampler.
Click. Includes tracks by New Found Glory, Ruiner and Have Heart.

The next thing that caught my eye was Matador Records. Apparently this is an annual sampler, so do check back in about a year's time for more musical goodness. They also have various other mp3s up on their website, so have a look around.
Click. Includes tracks by Cat Power and Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks.

There are various other label samplers wandering around the web, so go and check it out for yourself. Label samplers are also given away free in music magazines such as Rocksound and at indie record stores like Banquet Records, so keep an eye out.

Label Sites:
Although Wikipedia is what some might call the font of all knowledge, label sites are an excellent place to start with when you want to find out about a band. They usually have songs available to listen to and some tracks may be up for download as well. Downloadable tracks are more commonly found on indie label sites. Major labels aren't that keen on giving away free music. It is worth looking up a band on Wikipedia to see what labels they previously released records with even if they are with a major label now, as some labels have songs from alumni as well as previews for their current roster. Here's a list of some label sites that I have found particularly useful:

Epitaph/Burning Heart
Oddly enough, although the same bands appear on both sites (Epitaph has the rights to distribute Swedish record label Burning Heart Records' output in North America), they don't have the same tracks up for download, so you can collect a few more than usual to try out before picking up a record if you're into bands like The Hives, Refused, Millencolin, Matchbook Romance and The Offspring.

Sub Pop
How my heart crumbled when I discovered that my local HMV no longer sells ex-chart CD singles. Oh well, I was still able to get Balloons by Foals off the label site, so that'll be enough to tide me over until I can get their album. Other artists you may want to check out include Sleater-Kinney and CSS.

This is a French record label, and they have a very good collection of songs for those wishing to find out more about euro-screamo/European skramz/EU hardcore/whatever else you feel like calling some people from Europe screaming while accompanied by delectable guitar parts and raging percussion. A sudden yearning on my part for more bands like Amanda Woodward was dispelled upon discovering this website, which has music by Mihai Edrisch, Raein and many others.

Level Plane
Set up by Greg Drudy (Saetia, Hot Cross), this was one of the first places I went to when I was trying to find more music that could be called "people screaming while accompanied by delectable guitar parts and raging percussion", or hardcore (but depending on who you are speaking to that could be asking for trouble as people do not always seem to agree on what is "real" hardcore). Aside from this, bands such as the aforementioned Amanda Woodward, City of Caterpillar and Transistor Transistor have released records with Level Plane, so you can check them out here.

Jade Tree
There's some great alt rock bands to be found here, such as Jets To Brazil, onelinedrawing, Pedro The Lion and The Promise Ring. Just go and download some stuff now, you'll probably love it.

...In Conclusion:
Yes, it may be possible to just live off free songs, but the point of all this is to introduce you to new acts and encourage you to buy their records. Labels don't give away music for the fun of it. Free music is a good way to find bands you wouldn't have heard on the radio, so go out and support indie acts by purchasing their records if you like what you hear.

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