Is Free Music Archive free?

Free Music Archive is a website that offers free music from a variety of independent artists. It was launched in 2009 as a collaboration between WFMU radio and other organizations with the goal of creating an ad-free platform for users to download music under open licenses. Known to many as FMA, the website hosts a large library of music that can be downloaded for free and used for personal or commercial projects such as podcasts, videos, and more.

History of Free Music Archive

History of Free Music Archive

The Free Music Archive (FMA) was launched in 2009 by the community radio station WFMU in East Orange, New Jersey. WFMU started FMA as a platform to share legal audio downloads and streams of free music with the public Free Music Archive – Wikipedia.

The goal behind creating FMA was to provide a legal and curated collection of free music that patrons could use for sampling, remixing or just listening. The founders wanted to create an ad-free platform that would benefit both musicians looking to share their music and listeners looking to discover new artists and genres.

All of the music on FMA is either in the public domain or has been released under Creative Commons licenses by the artists themselves. This allows the music to be freely shared while still protecting the rights of the creators. Overall, FMA aimed to promote the importance of public domain content while providing a trusted source for free music online.

How FMA Works

The Free Music Archive (FMA) is a curated library of high-quality, legal audio downloads. All music on the site has been released under Creative Commons licenses that allow free distribution with proper attribution. Artists choose how they want to share their work, and FMA connects them with an audience. Music is handpicked by established DJs, radio stations, record labels, and music bloggers.

Before being added to the FMA catalog, all music submissions are reviewed by curators. Curators screen tracks for overall quality and licensing compatibility. They help ensure that artists fully understand and properly apply the Creative Commons licenses. Only about one-third of the thousands of monthly submissions are approved. This selective curation process allows FMA to offer a library of legal, high-quality music (Free Music Archive FAQ).

Music Licensing on FMA

The Free Music Archive provides all of its music under various forms of Creative Commons licensing [1]. This means that artists who upload their music can choose which Creative Commons license to release their songs under. The most common Creative Commons licenses used on FMA are:

  • CC BY – This license allows people to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, as long as attribution is given to the original creator.
  • CC BY-NC – This license allows for noncommercial reuse of the material as long as attribution is given.
  • CC BY-ND – This license allows for redistribution as long as the material is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to the original creator.
  • CC BY-SA – This license allows others to remix, adapt, and build upon the original work, even for commercial purposes, as long as attribution is given and any new creations are released under the identical Creative Commons license.

Some artists on FMA also release their music into the public domain, meaning there are no restrictions on use. Overall, the licensing options provide a lot of flexibility for people to access and legally use music from FMA.

Downloading and Using Music from FMA

FMA offers several options for downloading music. Users can stream songs directly on the FMA website or use the FMA app for iOS and Android devices. To download songs for offline listening, users must create a free account.

Downloaded songs are available in MP3 format up to 320kbps. The FMA download tool allows compiling songs into ZIP files or downloading them individually. Users can also download entire albums.

All music downloads from FMA must follow the attribution requirements of the license selected by the artist. Most songs use Creative Commons licenses which require crediting the artist and pointing back to the FMA page where the song is hosted. Specific license details are on each song or album page. FMA’s license guide explains various CC licenses.

When using FMA music in videos, presentations, or other projects, proper attribution helps artists gain exposure and ensures you comply with copyright terms.

FMA Content and Contributors

The Free Music Archive hosts a diverse range of music genres and styles. Some of the most popular genres include rock, pop, electronic, hip hop, jazz, classical, and experimental music. According to the FMA GitHub page, as of April 2021, the dataset contained over 100,000 tracks from over 16,000 artists and release groups

Some of FMA’s top contributors in terms of number of tracks include:

  • Broke For Free – indie/electronic artist with over 250 tracks
  • Jahzzar – musical project of Bosnian guitarist and composer Slobodan Janković with over 200 tracks
  • Alex Beroza – contemporary classical composer with over 150 tracks
  • Ghost – an anonymous ambient music project with over 100 tracks

These and many other musicians and composers contribute their music to FMA, helping build an extensive catalog of free music that anyone can access and use.

FMA Funding and Sustainability

The Free Music Archive was initially funded through grants and donations. According to the FMA About page, “Initial funding for The Free Music Archive came from a National Endowment of the Arts grant”

The FMA now relies on a combination of grants, donations from users, and revenue generated through their partnership with Coil. As stated on the FMA FAQ page, “We are now partnering with Coil to test a new sustainability model. With your Coil membership, you can easily support not only Free Music Archive but all kinds of Coil-enabled sites.”

This partnership with Coil, which leverages blockchain technology, allows FMA to receive micropayments from Coil members who visit the site while browsing with the Coil extension installed. This provides a steady stream of revenue to sustain operations without having to rely solely on donations and grants.

FMA Impact and Reach

The Free Music Archive has had a significant impact, with a wide reach across many listeners. According to the FMA website itself, it has facilitated over 7 million legal downloads to date, though this number continues to grow ( Some individual tracks, such as Kevin MacLeod’s “Impact” song, have been downloaded nearly 80,000 times ( FMA also sees significant website traffic, especially on popular artist pages. For example, Kevin MacLeod’s “Impact EP” page has received over 630,000 plays (

Clearly, the Free Music Archive provides a platform for artists to reach a large audience and facilitates the legal sharing of music on a major scale. Through its commitment to free and legal music access, FMA has become an impactful force in music discovery and distribution.

Pros and Cons of FMA

The Free Music Archive provides many benefits for both musicians and listeners, but it also has some drawbacks to consider.

Pros for Musicians

For musicians and artists, FMA offers a platform to share their music freely under Creative Commons licenses. This allows artists to gain exposure and potentially grow their fanbase. FMA also serves as a distribution channel, allowing musicians to reach a wider audience globally. Additionally, artists retain ownership of their work.

Cons for Musicians

The main drawback for musicians is that FMA does not provide direct revenue from streams or downloads. Artists must find other ways to monetize their music through avenues like live performances, merchandise sales or external sites. There is also no guarantee of visibility on FMA amidst the high volume of music uploaded.

Pros for Listeners

For listeners, FMA provides free access to a massive catalog of music to discover, stream and download. The licensing allows use of the music for noncommercial purposes like videos or podcasts. Listeners can discover emerging artists and genres not found on mainstream platforms.

Cons for Listeners

The main limitations for listeners are that some popular mainstream music is not available on FMA due to licensing restrictions. Listeners also cannot access premium features like personalized recommendations that paid streaming platforms offer.


In summary, the Free Music Archive is an invaluable resource for musicians, composers, and music lovers of all kinds. Founded in 2009, it provides a library of high-quality music that can be downloaded and used for free, as long as proper attribution is given. The music is available under Creative Commons licenses, which dictate how the music can be used.

FMA is funded primarily through grants and donations, though the future outlook is uncertain after the initial grant funding ran out. It provides a platform for musicians to share their work and gain exposure, though the lack of sustainable funding may jeopardize its future. While free music has many benefits, it also raises challenges for compensating artists fairly. Overall, FMA has had an immense impact, providing free access to a diverse catalog of independent music. Its mission is a noble one, and hopefully this unique platform will continue to thrive in the years ahead.

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