Everybody loves free music. We’re lucky because there are (as with literature and video) a lot of resources that let you download music for free. Some of the best resources not only let you enjoy it for free, but let you share it and use it for your own purpose for free.
Music is a particularly interesting art form because of the heavy use of sampling. Sampling is where you take a part (a sample) of another recording – rhythm, melody, lyrics, etc. Unfortunately, if you want to sample a popular track, you’re probably out of luck; they can be ridiculously expensive. What should be considered fair use is instead considered copyright infringement.
Luckily enough, there are plenty of places that not only let you sample music for free, but by their very nature, encourage it. Here’s five to get you started.
Freesound – I love a site where the domain tells you exactly what you need to know. At Freesound, everything is free. So long as you follow the license, you’ll be fine. CC0 licensed files are in the public domain; you can do whatever you want with them short of claiming yourself as the author. You could claim yourself to be the author of a derivative, though.
LibriVox – Think Audible, but everything is in the public domain. LibriVox brings together narrators and listeners from around the world to create public domain audiobooks. Not only is it a fantastic project, but one that you can join rather easily.
Musopen – I can’t describe Musopen better than they do: “We provide recordings, sheet music, and textbooks to the public for free, without copyright restrictions. Put simply, our mission is to set music free.” The site is fairly easy to use and provides useful metadata so you can find exactly what you’re looking for.
Mutopia Project – Mutopia focuses on sheet music rather than the sound files. This is for all you aspiring musicians out there. More than 2,000 pieces of sheet music, ready & waiting to be downloaded, modified, printed, copied, distributed, performed, recorded, or anything else.
International Music Score Library Project – You won’t be able to reach the end of this one. More than 142,000 works, 17,000 composers, 500 performers, 466,000 scores, 55,000 recordings, and 9.7 million pages – and increasing daily. They provide several search methods and make their content available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 license.