Streaming music may be all the rage but you can't beat good old fashioned free MP3 downloads when you're on the move and struggling for internet connection. What's more, most of the mobile streaming services require a paid or pro account. So, instead, we've trawled the web to come up with as many free music files as you can get your ears around for absolutely no cost at all.
While none of this is file sharing or torrent based, Pocket-lint can't guarantee that it's all 100% legal or clean. We've tried them all out ourselves and weeded out many that we weren't happy with, and none of these listed caused any apparent issues to our systems nor rang any major alarm bells that might lead to nasty letters from your ISP or unhappy record labels. So, without further ado, get those fingers on the mouse triggers, clear some space on your disk and download free MP3s.
MP3Realm.org is a free music search engine with around 12 million songs indexed at present. The selection of what you'll find isn't the best - it'll pull in obscure bands, but not necessarily very much music by each of them. The search function is good in that it understands boolean operators and when you get to the download screen, it's a case of right clicking on the blue download button.
There's no nasty ads in the way and some good information on each file including the size, where it's from and the playtime, all of which help to ease your mind that it's going to do what it says on the tin. MP3Realm will search lyrics for you as well, but it's probably more fun to download the tracks and work them out for yourself.
Looking like something that was designed in the 1990s, BeeMP3 focuses more on the content rather than anything approaching good looks. What lifts it above other tatty free MP3 download search engines is its extensive index of music and that it's remarkably ad-light.
On top of that, there's good information on each of the tracks - both in terms of the artists, bitrates and related MP3 downloads - as well as a decent community of commenters to keep you safe in the knowledge that anything non-kosha will be spotted pretty sharpish. You also get the opportunity to stream the track first in case you don't like it.
As the name suggests, MP3upload is all about a user-generated music community. The upsides are that the site looks good and that you can feel 100 per cent secure that you're doing a good thing by downloading the MP3s. The downside is that you won't have heard of any of it. The ability to click on different genre category tabs is a big help as is the top downloads section on each one. There is a free sign up to get through before you're away and it's well worth having a preview of the tracks before you pick up the MP3 file.
Fairtilizer is another community-based service where you'll find all sorts of interesting remixes and tracks from unsigned artists and bands, as well as a few bits and pieces from independent labels too. While a lot of it is only available for streaming, there's still plenty of free downloads on offer as well.
Searching by charts is probably the best way to go, to make sure that you're getting something good, and do look out for the 30 or 60-minute "in the mix tracks" where you'll get to enjoy an entire set from a unknown DJ somewhere around the world.
If ever there was a site that did its best to get you to click on all the things you don't want to, it's the bizarrely named MRTZCMP3. Self-proclaimed "the worlds number one music search engine", its 120 million track index certainly managed quite happily with some less straight forward and obvious artists that we threw at it.
The trick is that the front page, with its search box, is all very well and good. The results are clean enough too, but when you click through to what you think is the download page, you'll find all sorts of things that you don't want to click on apart from a teeny tiny bit of text at the very bottom that reads "next". Yes, you're on an ad-riddled holding screen. Head through to the real download page, right click on the minuscule blue link (not the large download graphic) and save target as. Bob's your aunty's live in lover, a free MP3 arrives on your desktop.
One of the best things about Elbo.ws is that it's super clean. It's a music blog aggregator which takes the very best posts from all over the Internet and puts them in one place. At the same time, it'll also direct you to sites where the writer has posted up free MP3 files to download. It's a bit of a schlep to do the looting given that Elbo.ws doesn't condone piracy. So, you do have to click through to the relevant blog and find what you're after yourself. That said, the Elbo.ws search is good and will point you towards the right URL.
We'd rather not start entering into the murky waters of legality when it comes to Project FindMusic but, if you're happy to brave this charcoal grey of areas, then you'll find access to all the free MP3 downloads you could ever possibly need. It's a custom built Google search which will look though all open directories out there on the Internet and bring you links to access those with MP3 files sitting unguarded inside. It's URL upon URL of music treasure troves. Should you wish to firmly step across the thin blue line, you can also set the site to search shared files and torrents as well.
Probably shadier still is FileMirrors.Info which searches other sharing and uploading services such as Rapidshare, Megaupload, Hotfile, 4shared, Filefactory and Depositfiles. While a lot of it is packed up as RAR and you'll get all sorts of other files turning up as well, you can filter to just MP3 files. The search isn't that great but you'll certainly get plenty of results to sift through.
If that's all a bit shady for you, then FMA will set you back on the straight and narrow. The Free Music Archive was launched in April 2009 and is stacked full of high quality 100% legal MP3 downloads. Most of what you'll find is available through Creative Commons and you'll get all sorts of interesting live performance recordings as well as some nice bits of spoken word too. It's also refreshingly clean. Make sure to search by genre and donate to the artists via Paypal if you like too.
Last on the list is the good old Internet Archive which catalogues all sorts of MP3s from audio books and news shows to radio programs and straight music files as well. There are around 200,000 recordings including 50,000-odd live shows including a rather special Grateful Dead concert among many others.
There are, of course, as many free MP3 download sites out there as stars in the sky. We did our level best to bring you the ones that we reckon are the pick of the crop but, if there are any that you use that the world should know about, then do let us know in the comments below.