Seven Top Free Digital Music Services

It’s the age of freebies. These days, we can download e-books, stream movies, and listen to music, all for free – and legally! It’s just a question of where to find these goodies.

So as far as music is concerned, where can we get them for free? Here are some sites you would want to check out:

1. Grooveshark ( is one of the largest music streaming services in the world. This site allows you to find and listen to your favourite music, make your own personalized playlist, browse for new songs, and share them on social networking and bookmarking sites with just one click.

You can listen to free unlimited radio on your Android, Blackberry, Nokia, Jailbroken iPhone, or HP Web OS smartphone by simply downloading the Grooveshark app.

It also has features such as the video mode, which lets you watch YouTube videos of your favourite songs; the Power Hour mode, which automatically moves you to a new song every 60 seconds; and the visualizer, which adds a visual element to accompany your music.

2. Spotify ( The Spotify free account gives you instant access to millions of tracks for your streaming pleasure. You can play and organize your own MP3s, and you can share them with your friends, as well as get your friends’ recommendations, and listen to them instantly with just a click of a Facebook button.

If you want to listen to music offline on your desktop or mobile, though, you’ll need to get the paid Premium account.

3. We7 ( is a free music-streaming service available to users from Ireland and the UK. It has more than 6.8 million tracks from four major record labels and a huge number of independent labels. If you wish to purchase the tracks, you can do so from the in-site store.

4. ( you like listening to music but are too lazy to search for the music you like, try, a music recommendation service. Just sign up, download the Scrobbler software, and let that little tool deliver personalised recommendations based on what songs or artists you listen to most often.

5. Soundclick ( site has been around since 1997, so it must be good, right? To date, its catalogue holds over 2.5 million tracks that you can listen to through live streaming. Some of the music is available for free and legal download.

6. Audio Archive ( you’re looking for free songs, poetry readings, audio books, old-time radio shows, and even alternative news programs, you can find over 200,000 of those from Audio Archives’ MP3 and audio library.

7. ArtistServer ( looking for non-mainstream artists and their music can find them at ArtistServer. Choose from over 8,000 free and legally downloadable songs from this website. There is a full range of genres to choose from – country, rock, jazz, metal, blues, classical, hip-hop, folk, and many others – all recorded by unsigned artists, who use the site to promote their work.

With many digital music services available the CD duplication industry is reducing and digital music sales now eclipse that of CDs.

Digital Music Production – Plugins and Plugin Formats

What is a plug-in? The Wikipedia entry on plug-in says: “In computing, a plug-in consists of a computer program that interacts with a host application to provide a certain, usually very specific, function on demand”. In digital music production software, plugins have a certain function in the production process, whether that be for creative and artistic purposes or for engineering purposes.

To use a plugin, first you need a plugin host. The music industry standard for these hosts are the Digital Audio Workstations (or DAWs) that are widely available today, in both proprietary commercial software or open-source freeware. Such DAW’s include Steinberg Cubase or Nuendo, Cakewalk Sonar, Digidesign Pro Tools (the DAW considered to be THE industry standard), and Apple Logic Studio. There are other less familiar DAWs but as powerful nonetheless such as MAGIX Samplitude and the newcomer Presonus Studio One. Other than the major name DAW’s, there are minor DAW’s that are proprietary with a certain hardware purchase or freeware DAW’s that are light but have limited capabilities.

By installing a DAW on your computer, you can then use the power of plugins to enhance your creative and engineering palette. Creative use of plugins include instrument plugins or plugins that give special effects and sounds such as unique delays, vintage filters, and hard compression. Engineering use of plugins constitute the majority of plugin usage – to glue the sound of the music together. Depending on whether a plugin is designed for creative or engineering use, the capabilities of that plugin will vary. For example, some engineering plugins focus on efficient GUI (user interface) and reproduction fidelity while other plugins are highly colored and feature only one knob that does all sorts of unorthodox things to your sound. Either way you can spend hours just tweaking to get that right sound.

Plugin Formats

Certain DAW’s only work with certain plugin formats. Let’s look at the various standard plugin formats and their corresponding DAW that supports these formats:

1. VST/VSTi. Stands for Virtual Studio Technology (i for instrument) made by Steinberg. Primarily for Cubase, though many of the other DAW’s support the VST format (it is in fact the widest format in use). Works both for Mac and PC.

2. DX/DXi. Stands for DirectX, made by Cakewalk and Microsoft. Works best with Sonar. PC only.

3. RTAS & TDM. Stands for Real Time AudioSuite and Time Division Multiplexing, made by Digidesign. Format for Pro Tools. Both for Mac and PC.

4. AU or Audio Unit. Made by Emagic and adopted by Apple. Format for Logic Studio. Only for Mac.

To understand better the compatibility between hosts and plugins, it’s best to check the specifications of the host software on what formats it supports. There are workarounds to format support limitations, such as the RTAS to VST adapter for Pro Tools (important because there are many good and free VST’s, but not so many RTAS’ that are good AND free). The various plugins available may also come in more than one format e.g. a channel strip plugin set consisting of EQ and compression may come in VST, DX, and also RTAS for ease of use between various DAW owners. A great source to look at when searching for plugins is the KVR Audio website where they keep up to date with commercial and free plugins (sometimes the free ones are better than the commercial ones *hint).

What used to take a large box of hardware can now be done in a small box of software. Take advantage of the technology to produce the music that you want. But remember to put some limitation on yourself or you could get lost in the palette of plugins available at your fingertips.

To your music success,

Online Digital Music Stores Offering Revenue Outlet For Indie Bands

Online digital music stores have become a dominant way for independent bands to expose their projects and gain revenue to continue evolving their art. With iTunes established as an industry leader, there are other Web sites, such as Rhapsody and Amazon, trying to be more innovative and using every angle to develop the idea. Cdbaby actually caters to the independent music community and offers several services to up and coming bands.

Cdbaby is a service exclusively for indie bands, unsigned artists and independent record labels. The company is a full service digital distribution company for anyone in the music business for a small fee. Can any indie band, or artist submit their tracks to iTunes? Yes, Apple is essentially a record label, distributor, and retailer all in one.

The indie bands gains commission by becoming a partner, or affiliate with iTunes. A band can receive revenue just for being an affiliate of iTunes. ITunes encourages indie bands and artists to “Add the world’s #1 music download store and best digital jukebox to your marketing mix.”

The convenience of the ability to stay home and go onto an online music store site, instead of going to a local music store is why this option has become a fierce competitor for cd retail stores. The online music stores are also so popular, because they offer music fans the option to listen to a full-length version of a song before they purchase the mp3. The sites also offer various media, such as videos, to consumers who want to see the newest media released.

The marketing tactics utilized by iTunes, such as gift certificates, Web links and widgets also captures the attention of indie bands interested in capturing more fans. Even though iTunes is the world’s #1 music download store and jukebox, there are other sites like Cdbaby who are making their mark with a niche market.

What is a Digital Music Retailer?

In the music industry, a new trend is moving to the forefront. It is called digital music retailing. Understanding what a digital music retailer is and what they can do for your band is important to any new recording artist.

To be concise, a digital music retailer is a company that makes it possible for musicians and singers to put their music in front of a wide online audience for sale. Using the mp3 format, you can record your music, upload it to a retailer and sell your recordings to fans around the world. Popular retailers include Amie Street, 7Digital, iTunes and EMusic.

While the retailing system has existed for a number of years, it’s popularity and value is rapidly soaring to new heights. To illustrate the value of these outlets, HMV bought a half interest in 7Digital in late 2009. They paid $12.6 million dollars for the privilege of owning half of this popular UK based retailer and saw a 16% increase in their sales from the previous year.

Those are big numbers but what do they mean to the recording artists? They mean that the music industry has seen that digital music downloads are the next wave in media. Recording artists no longer have to deal with expensive overhead that leaves them paying the recording companies to produce their songs. Using a home recording studio and a little tech savvy, the independent recording artist can now create, upload and sell their music online through a digital music retailer to see long term income in the form of royalties every time their song is purchased by a retailer’s customers.

The digital music retailer provides recording artists with a ready made fan base consisting of thousands of people and a hands off approach to sales. The artist provides the retailer with the content their customers look for. It’s a Win-Win situation all around.