The Best Music On the Internet is…Free…and It’s Not What You Think
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, but we live in a time with a deluge of art and creativity. Are there certain books you’re into? There are likely plenty of them. Are there certain movies you’re into? They exist in spades, even in short form. Is there a specific style of music you enjoy? Trust me, you can find it (or you can do what I did and make your own, like I did with Audio of the Ancients).
But in this deluge there is a little bit of a problem…how do you know what’s any good? Or how do you find a trusted source? Curation is certainly a future necessity in the Digital Age, and in my opinion, every single algorithm for curation sucks ass (even Apple knows that, which is why they have humans augmenting music selection algorithms in Apple Music). So when it comes to music, how about I–the Rated R Radio Star–do a little curation for you, at least as far as good sources to download that music from?
Myself, first and foremost, I’m a metalhead. Always have been (I was singing KISS’ “Crazy Nights” when I was 6 years old, and the first cassette I ever bought was Motley Crue’s “Dr. Feelgood”). Not that you’re going to find much of that in the suggestions I’m going to make for you. But my second favorite style of music is…drum roll please…video game music!
I know right? Video game music is amazing, especially the classic stuff. The amount of emotion that can get transmitted through very few channels that cartridge-based consoles could get out there is a marvel of technology and human imagination, and modern game soundtracks today have just taken full symphonies and instrumentation to the heights. And recently studies have shown that video game music is actually great to listen to while you work or need to be productive since it is designed to be in the background and “egg you on”, as it were. But really, it’s all about the “cool factor” when it comes to video game music, and the first couple sites that I recommend as music resources cover that angle. And keep in mind, everything, years worth of music collections to download…are TOTALLY FREE. Let’s get to them…
- The 16-bit Audiophile Project: “High quality videogame soundtracks for retrogaming fans”, is the tagline for this site, and hot damn does it deliver on it. While it has a somewhat limited selection (compared to, say, torrent sites), the quality of the selection is incomparable. MP3’s, FLAC, and more are available for each game’s soundtrack. The systems covered are obvious by the name: the 16-bit consoles. While most of the games are from the phenomenal Sega Genesis/MegaDrive, there are also rare Amiga game soundtracks available. Been wanting to hear the newly-discovered Michael Jackson penned soundtrack for Sonic the Hedgehog 3? You’re going to get the best, privately-recorded (right from the cartridges) soundtrack around. And while it is free, don’t hesitate to donate to the Project. There are so many classic video game soundtracks available here, get ready for the good times.
- Overclocked Remix: “Dedicated to the appreciation and promotion of video game music as an art form”. OCremix.org has been around for years, and while you’re not going to (generally) get access to original video game soundtracks, you are going to get stunning remixes and interpretations of music from thousands of games. A couple of recommendations? Listen to some of the original works based off the music of Super Mario Bros. 2, and try out One Must Fall 2049. The gaming systems covered here run the gamut, from the NES, to the PS1, to the PC, and this is all done by people that just love the music and make it their own. There is more music here than I think you could listen to in a lifetime, and more music gets added by the day, but so much of it is amazing. Also check out the “Albums” section, as they curate some of the music under a certain category or specific game. All fantastic, and again, if you love it, please don’t hesitate to donate to them, as all of it is free. Just straight up one of the best sites on the Web, in my opinion.
- Free Music Archive: “It’s not just free music; it’s good music”. That tagline is dead on. A wide variety of music styles are available on this site, and while it’s not video game music, it does fit in this list by all being completely free and curated, just like the other sites listed here. The curated lists are very well done, and their are some artists on here that blow my mind that they are releasing this music for pretty much nothing (but do donate if you love it, of course, I do). FMA is part of a fascinating movement in the music world, which is similar to podcasts in that the artists don’t charge a dime. Instead–like podcasts–it’s about exposing the world to your passion, and building a community around it. It’s a beautiful thing.
SIDE NOTE: Keep in mind, these sites aren’t like Soundcloud where, sure, you can listen to the music, but you can’t download a lot of it. Nor are they like Pandora where the company itself–and not the artists–are making money via some advertising. When these are free, downloadable, and Creative Commons or Public Domain music, they are just that. No tricks.
Many listeners of my podcast Sovryn Tech and followers of my work have complimented my taste over time, and have expressed their appreciation for me sharing music (and other) recommendations. I really love hearing that. And while I can’t get behind every song available on the above sites, I can definitely get behind the quality of the sites and their reliability as resources. Enjoy!
DISCLAIMER: The ZOG Blog is the part of this site where Dr. Brian Sovryn can talk about anything. From pop culture, to philosophy, to just sharing updates with what’s going on at Zomia Offline Games and with other projects.