Sites like Youtube, Soundcloud, and Mixcloud have enabled internet users to listen to nearly anything they like. Along with services like Spotify or Groove, it's possible to have the entire music catalogue at your fingertips. This is a great thing, and for those of us with a permanent internet connection and possibly a bit of spare money to subscribe to a digital service, it's enough. It's important to respect the artist's wishes and if the music is meant for sale, either because the record company invested cash in the production and touring of the music, or because the artist themselves invested their own capital in the product, we have to pay for it or accept the use of advertising. This works well, but there are people who don't have internet all the time, or those who can't afford to pay for premium products or streaming services.
There are a lot of places and artists who are happy to give out creative commons and otherwise non-commercial music. Often artists like to have their work out there and in as many living rooms as possible, and giving it out for free can ensure a wide audience. Sometimes artists will release some commercial and some free music, in order to get as much out there and as much in return as possible. Also many fans enjoy supporting their favourite artists and will happily donate what they can in return for continuation of the project. The internet has changed the way artists and fans interact and support each other.
Bandcamp is a mixture of free and paid music, it's possible to find some brilliant name your own price material that allows us to pay nothing for a copy, or a small to large amount depending on what we have available. Artists use this platform to upload their music, and sell it or give it away. Bandcamp take a slice from the money for the service of providing a platform, and artists can make a living from selling digital media from there.
To get to the totally free music, we can look a bit further afield. Here are three great free music resources.
Batenim (an anagram of ambient) are an Italian based netlabel that specialises in ambient music. Everything on this label is in creative commons so it is free for anyone to download and listen to on a burned CD or from a device.
Ektoplasm are a similar site, with a much wider range of music from the psytrance electronica scene. Their albums span from techno to forest, from glitch to psybient, and everywhere in between.
Unlike the previous two, Altus is a site dedicated to one artist. Ambient masterpieces are the signature hallmark of this creator of sound, and each album is listed in order with a few word here and there. He recommends that rather than downloading everything at once and never appreciating it, it's best to start with the most recent album, enjoy it, then move on to the next.