How can I download music for free and set as ringtone?

Ringtones remain a popular way for mobile users to customize and personalize their devices. With the rise of smartphones and mobile apps, there has been increasing demand for access to free ringtones that users can easily download and set for their device. The market for ringtones and related mobile apps continues to grow, with industry forecasts estimating the global market at $XX million by 20XX. However, downloading copyrighted music for use as a free ringtone raises concerns about legality and risks. While there are legitimate ways to find free music and create ringtones, it’s important to be aware of copyright law and usage rights.

Understanding Copyright

Copyright law gives the creator of a musical work the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display and make derivatives of their work (Source: This means downloading copyrighted music without permission from the rights holder is generally illegal. However, there are some grey areas around personal use of copyrighted content.

While it may seem harmless to download a song just for your own personal use as a ringtone, technically this still infringes on the copyright holder’s exclusive rights (Source: The “fair use” defense which allows limited use of copyrighted works without permission has exceptions for commentary, criticism, news reporting, etc. – but generally does not apply to personal entertainment uses.

However, there is little legal precedent around downloads for personal mobile phone ringtones. Law enforcement agencies tend to prioritize large-scale illegal distribution. While technically illegal, the risks are low for an individual downloading a song for personal ringtone use only.

Risks of Illegal Downloading

There are significant risks associated with illegal downloading of music and other media. Perhaps the most concerning risk is exposure to viruses and malware. According to Florida State University, illegal download sites often bundle viruses and spyware with the media files, which can then infect your computer when downloaded. These malicious programs can cause extensive damage, from corrupting files to stealing private information.

There are also noteworthy legal consequences for partaking in illegal downloads. Downloading or distributing copyrighted material without permission is against the law. According to, consequences can include fines up to $150,000 per infringement as well as jail time up to 5 years for a first offense. Lawsuits against individual downloaders have resulted in judgements upwards of $2 million. While lawsuits are not common for personal use, the potential legal penalties are nevertheless significant.

Ethical Considerations

Downloading music illegally raises important ethical questions that should be considered. Many argue that downloading copyrighted music without paying is unethical because it deprives artists of compensation for their work. The music industry has suffered financially from piracy and illegal downloading, with revenues dropping 50% from 1999 to 2009 according to research. When music is downloaded illegally, artists and rights holders do not receive royalties or licensing fees.

Proponents counter that the music industry remains highly profitable, despite piracy. They argue free music helps unknown artists reach a wider audience. However, studies show musicians earn the majority of income from live performances, merchandising and licensing deals – revenue streams hurt by declining record sales. Ethically, taking someone’s creative work without compensation raises complex questions of fairness and harm, especially when legal alternatives exist.

Where to Find Free Music

There are several legitimate online sources where you can download free music legally. Many of these sites offer songs and albums that are distributed under Creative Commons licenses. This means the artist has chosen to allow their music to be shared for free, as long as attribution is given. Here are some top sites for finding free music:

Free Music Archive offers a wide variety of independent music available for free download. You can browse by genre or search for specific artists. All music on the site is legally licensed under Creative Commons.

Jamendo Music has over 500,000 tracks available for free download under Creative Commons licenses. You can stream songs before downloading and search by genre, mood, and more.

The Pixabay site is known for its library of free stock photos and videos, but it also has over 7,000 music tracks you can download at no cost. Music on Pixabay is released under CC0 license.

Focusing on independent artists, SoundClick allows musicians to share their work. Many songs are available as free downloads. Read the terms for each track, as some do require attribution.

For a wide range of historic audio recordings, visit the Internet Archive’s Audio Archive. Here you can find live concerts, old radio programs, nature recordings, and more available for download under Creative Commons.

Tools for Downloading

There are several methods for downloading music from YouTube depending on your preferences and technical expertise:

Browser Extensions

Browser extensions like NoteBurner and Video DownloadHelper allow you to download YouTube videos directly from your browser. These extensions are quick and easy to use, but may be limited in format options.

Converter Software

Dedicated converter programs like MusicFab YouTube Converter give you more control over output quality and format selection. They allow batch downloading multiple videos at once. The downside is you have to download and install separate software.

Command Line Utilities

For advanced users, command line tools like youtube-dl allow automated downloading via scripts and integration into other software. However, they require comfort with the command line interface.

Setting as Ringtone on iPhone

There are a couple ways to set a downloaded or existing song as a ringtone on an iPhone without having to pay in the iTunes Store.

Using iTunes:

  • Open iTunes on your computer and connect your iPhone.
  • Select the song you want to use as a ringtone and right click to bring up the menu options.
  • Hover over “Get Info” and then click “Options.”
  • In Options, change the dropdown menu from “Song” to “Ringtone.”
  • Click OK to confirm.
  • Sync your iPhone to add the new ringtone.
  • On your iPhone, go to Settings > Sounds to select your new ringtone.

Using GarageBand:

  • Open GarageBand on your Mac and select “New Project.”
  • Click “Audio” and select the song you want to use as a ringtone.
  • Trim the song down to 30 seconds or less.
  • Click the Share button and select “Ringtone.”
  • Sync your iPhone to add the new ringtone.
  • Go to Settings > Sounds on your iPhone to select it.

This allows you to bypass Apple’s normal ringtone purchase requirements and assign any song as your custom iPhone ringtone for free.

Setting as Ringtone on Android

There are a couple different ways to set a downloaded song as your ringtone on Android devices. Using the native tools provided by Android is one straightforward option.

To use the native Android settings:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Sound & vibration.
  3. Tap Ringtone.
  4. Tap Add and select the song file you want to set as your ringtone.
  5. Use the start and end sliders to select the part of the song you want.
  6. Tap Done to confirm.

This will set the selected part of the song as your default ringtone. You can follow similar steps to set specific ringtones for contacts.

Another option is to use third party apps from the Google Play Store. Apps like ZEdge allow you to browse and download a huge library of ringtones. You can then easily set them as your default ringtone or assign to contacts. Some apps may require a small fee for certain features.

Overall, Android makes it simple to customize your ringtones with both built-in tools and third party apps. Just make sure any downloaded songs or content you use complies with copyright laws.

Popular Ringtone Genres

When selecting a ringtone, people often choose songs and audio clips from popular music genres and TV shows or movies. According to a study by Street Directory, the most popular ringtone genre is rap/hip hop music. Other popular music genres for ringtones include:

  • Pop – Upbeat, catchy pop songs are commonly used for ringtones.
  • Rock – Ringtones with electric guitars and strong drum beats are popular among rock music fans.
  • Hip hop – Songs with driving beats and catchy hooks are often chosen.

Themes or iconic music from movies and TV shows are also commonly used for ringtones. For example, the Star Wars theme, Game of Thrones theme song, and Law & Order dun dun sound effect are popular selections. Other TV show theme songs like The Simpsons, Friends, and Seinfeld are also popular ringtone choices.


In summary, while technology has made it very easy to download and share music for free, there are many ethical, legal, and safety risks to consider. Downloading copyrighted music without permission is illegal in most countries and can lead to punishments. However, there are legitimate sources of free music, such as music licensed under Creative Commons or that artists intentionally offer for free. Users should avoid risks and practice good digital citizenship by only accessing legal, safe sources of free media.

There are many ways to customize your phone’s ringtones and alerts while respecting copyright laws and artist rights. Consider using pre-installed default ringtones, creative commons music, or music you’ve properly purchased and own the rights to. Alternatively, music services like Spotify allow users to officially set full songs as ringtones with the proper licenses. Follow the best practices provided for your phone’s operating system to legally and safely assign ringtones featuring your favorite tunes.

Rather than download unlicensed content, users have many options to access music ethically, including streaming services, online radio, free promotional songs, public domain works, and more. Support the artists you love by using official platforms and services to listen to their work. With the wide array of legal options available today, there’s no need to infringe copyright or access shady sources. Make smart choices to keep your devices safe and build good digital habits.

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