Gems from the Internet Archive

Library Before Spotify and the streaming services appeared, there was much moral panic about the impact of P2P file sharing on the Internet and the impact on artists.

At about the same time, plucky data hoarders formed the Internet Archive and began storing and preserving music which could be shared with the world, given the necessary permissions from the copyright holders.

While the concerns about free music sharing on the P2P networks were legitimate, it doesn’t mean no music can be legitimately obtained for free. The Internet Archive now makes an interesting place to browse and download choice pieces of audio. It even includes live shows from several mainstream artists. You just might lose a few hours looking for them!

When the Internet seemed young…

The Internet music scene in the early 00s was dominated by the rise of the P2P networks. Kazaa, Napster and eDonkey2000, amongst others - these were the services that offered unlimited access to unlimited music, and all for free (in terms of cost).

They are mostly still going in slightly different forms. But while some users filled their boots with free music, others were more circumspect; it might be free to me, but what is the real cost to the artist? And what is the cost to me if I am found to be illegally downloading and sharing this content?

Since then, streaming became the dominant way of accessing music on the Internet. A low cost was combined with low friction of access, and a service that the mainstream could adopt was the result.

But free is good right? What if there was free music… but it was legitimately free?

The good type of hoarding

Even as the P2P networks rose and fell, a separate group were building a project, and a resulting library, to eventually provide Universal Access to All Knowledge. The Internet Archive was formed as an organisation to build a library of all cultural artifacts, to prevent them being lost and to provide access to all.

The Internet Archive was initially famous for its Wayback Machine, but its content types expanded such that it not only preserves Web pages, but also print artifacts, video and, importantly to us, audio. All of this is accessible by the general public, and can be downloaded from its website.

What this means is: not only can you access a vast array of interesting old and obscure recordings, but you can even get them for free.

What’s inside?

And when I say a vast array of interesting old and obscure recordings, I mean it. It ranges from mainstream and live shows to the most crazy shit you’ve seen. Some of it is downright scary.

Most of the good modern stuff are live shows. A bunch of artists have made a large number of their live shows available for free. Typically there’s one page for each night in a tour, so it can be interesting comparing the different nights. This does, of course, mean similar setlists! Some of the most well-known, mainstream artists making live shows available are:

Then there are the more obscure titles. Who doesn’t like “German Beer Drinking Music”? Who doesn’t want to hear Eine Kleine Nachtmusik played on a Moog?

But here’s a warning: some of the titles stray into some questionable waters. Specifically, political extremism - so just be a bit careful how you share this resource.

Bizarre, enlightening, funny or frightening, the Internet Archive opens up access to a vast array of free music. I encourage you to simply browse what they have; just looking for new music is great fun. Start on the Album Recordings collection and be prepared to lose a lot of time…

Photo by Ivo Rainha on Unsplash

tags: gratis free

The Music Library Management blog

Dan Gravell

I'm Dan, the founder and programmer of bliss. I write bliss to solve my own problems with my digital music collection.