Here’s our list of the places on the Web that every aspiring desktop deejay should visit:
1 Mp3.com An essential first stop for MP3 newbies, and everything’s legal. Because of its strict policy of posting only those songs authorized by the copyright holders, you won’t find Barenaked Ladies or the Austin Powers sound track. But there are an extensive library of songs by independent artists in all genres and the occasional treat from some better-known ones. The FAQ is a good primer. The software section rates dozens of players and related apps and provides links to each download site. The hardware section gives the scoop on portable players, sound cards and speakers.
2 Mp3.lycos.com digs up digital songs posted all over the Net, including those hard-to-reach FTP sites, and handicaps the returns using its own “reliability guide” (links are listed in order of how likely you are to access them). Keyword searches are tough to fine-tune: Search for “Hole” and you get Courtney Love’s band as well as the Butthole Surfers — an embarrassment of riches you may not want.
3 Bigredh.com is a terrific tool for navigating the cyberworld beyond the Web. Download the free Hotline software and head into a parallel universe, where MP3s roam free. The search engine tracker-tracker.com delivers IP addresses and other data you need to connect. But be warned: search results might turn up porn sites that happen to be hosting MP3s.
FREE SONGS & SEARCH ENGINES
Scour.net searches several MP3 song banks at once to find tracks you can download legally through your browser. Other portals: mp3now.com, rioport.com, dailymp3.com and mp3park.com.
Audiogalaxy.com Search returns include a “How Do I Use This?” link to instructions for dealing with FTP (file transfer protocol). Fluency in this language will open lots of MP3 doors.
Oth.net and 2look4.com both troll the Net for MP3s on ftp servers and deliver lots of links, but only 2look4 tells you what to expect and what to do. Ra ther than click through, as you would with links on mp3.com, you’ll have to plug in site addresses, user names and passwords into an FTP program and go from there. No luck? Try your search at one of a dozen other engines accessible at FindSongs.com. A warning: searches could turn up FTP servers that host porn as well as music, but the porn is easy to avoid.
Listen.com will pull up links to songs that “sound like” the artist or band you want if none of their MP3s are legal. But watch out. This site thinks Billy Squier sounds like the Rolling Stones.
EatSleepMusic.com, a growing collection of free music.
MUSIC FOR SALE
EMusic.com sells MP3 singles for 99¢ and entire albums for $9.
Riffage.com, a combination community-commerce site specializing in artists on independent labels.
CDNow.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Amazon.com and SamGoody.com offer the occasional digital music download (often exclusives) through partnerships with record companies. The songs are in proprietary formats that restrict users to one copy to store on a PC or burn onto a CD.
MusicMaker.com has said it will expand its online music store to include 500,000 songs from the EMI catalog (Cher, the Beach Boys …). Customers will be able to buy and download secure (piracy-proof) tracks for $1 apiece. The site already offers hundreds of thousands of songs from independent labels and sells custom CDs.
SonyMusic.com plans to start selling $3.50 “virtual singles” recorded in MS Audio, another restricted format.
a2bmusic.com is home to a proprietary format used by some record companies mainly to promote new albums and drive traffic to online CD stores. Join the e-mail list for links to the latest a2b downloads. It’s nice to get a sneak peek at, say, Weird Al Yankovic’s latest parody, but 18-sec. snippets of songs don’t exactly improve your playlist.
Shoutcast.com Call it MP3 Radio. Shoutcast servers broadcast MP3 music as streaming audio on the Net; you’ll need the WinAmp audio player on your PC to listen in “live.” A way to enjoy MP3 music without downloading it.
Mp3spy.com offers a free program that helps direct you to Shoutcast stations, and it tells you what’s on. Once you start listening to a particular broadcast, mp3spy will identify each song, tell you how many other people are listening and rate the quality of the transmission.
Spinner.com Scores of streaming audio channels grouped by genre. Recent additions: Brit Pop, Hair Metal, Salsa.
Broadcast.com Streaming audio portal makes local radio stations global.
Imagineradio.com More channels.