This holiday, I was invited to a “Secret Santa” gift-giving exchange. The only rule was that the present had to be a made one, not a bought one. An obvious choice was to make something edible – always appreciated, but also very common – but then I thought about one of the things that I enjoy the most: listening to music. A mix of holiday songs burned onto a CD with a printed case would be a welcome present for anyone.
To make it more interesting, I decided to share free music: songs that were either in the Public Domain or released with a Creative Commons license. That way, my gift recipient could find more music that she could download and listen to for free …legally. So I went to my favourite sources of free (and legal!) music.
The Free Music Archive is a great source of all types of music and podcasts. I often find interesting artists and good music to listen to. The music all has different licenses – mostly some version of the Creative Commons licenses. (One of my favourite finds here is the Debo Band – an American/Ethiopian band that plays some great funky versions of Ethiopian music.)
I went searching for Christmas songs and found all kinds of eclectic songs. The ones that I liked the most were from Badgerland, a label out of Canada that has released some eclectic, mostly folksy versions of traditional Christmas carols and other songs. (There are additional releases on their website.)
Jamendo is another place I go to find interesting and free music. There are all kinds of independent bands that release music on the site, with all kinds of styles. (I recently found and got hooked on the band I Am Not Lefthanded – featured on the website screenshot.)
I searched for Christmas music and again there were all kinds of interesting music. I was really drawn to Ronny Matthes, a German pianist who has released a number of albums of holiday music, mainly instrumental.
I looked at MusOpen, which has some beautiful classical music – all in the Public Domain. They also have sheet music and educational resources …it’s a great site. I thought about downloading Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, but I figured it would take too many CD’s. (I’ll do it for my own listening pleasure! MusOpen did remind me of the music of the US Air Force Band and they have several holiday recordings on their website free for downloading. (I must admit to being a little uncertain of the license for their music. I know that works by government agencies are in the public domain, but the music is often copyrighted. The USAF Band says the music is free for “educational purposes.” I’ll take it!)
Giving a free gift
Finding the music, putting together a playlist, burning a CD and printing out the cover and track information (including CC license info and a link to the website, of course!) all made it a personal present for my “Secret Santa.” My work was my time and effort.
But I also like to think that I’ve given another gift: the knowledge of sources of freely shareable music. It’s too easy in this day and age to pirate music, breaking the law knowingly or unknowingly. Using Jamendo or FMA or MusOpen or any other free sources of music works against that. And it spreads the knowledge of otherwise unknown recording artists. I hope that my gift’s recipient will explore other musicians on these sites …just as I hope that you will too!
(note: images are either screenshots or pictures from Pixabay – a source of excellent free photos released in the public domain. They’re free to use!)