There's tons and tons of free and legal
music available on the internet. Unfortunately, "tons and tons" does you no good if it's not what you want to hear. If it's copyrighted music, currently being sold by a major label, you're probably going to be out of luck. Still, many bands release a track or two for promotional purposes, Itunes offers a free download regularly, Amazon offers quite a few free (or remarkably cheap) downloads. (I did once download a 4 track EP from Amazon -- I was only interested in one of the songs, but I got a kick out of seeing a charge of four cents on my credit card statement.) Here in the States NPR and many local NPR affiliates offer free downloads from artists who are appearing on shows. If you're a fan of a particular artist, check their web sites (or the sites of their labels) for free downloadable tracks -- especially if they're pushing a new release.
Sites like Last.fm don't offer as many free downloads as they used to, but there's still quite a few tracks you can download, free and legal. You probably have to register to download, but it's free. Again, you're not going to find free downloads from top current artists.
If your tastes are more eclectic, you're probably in a better position. Many artists permit shows to be taped and distributed. Phish and the Grateful Dead are the best known, but quite a few others covering a wide variety of genres are available. The first place to check for these live recordings would be the Live Music Archive at Archive.org -- http://www.archive.org/index.php
-- maintained by Etree. If it's here it's legal, and the Archive is very safe. I'd recommend almost anything by Kaki King, Vienna Teng, Bob Schneider, or Railroad Earth for starters.
In the Audio archive try looking under the "netlabels" collection. You are much more likely to find stuff like ambient and electronic music here -- not much pop.
If you do
like electronic, ambient, IDM (intelligent dance music), etc., you might check out a netlabel like the Kahvi Collective -- http://kahvi.org/index.php
Mikael Fyrek, for instance, makes really nice music in a Vangellis vein. (I will admit that I actually prefer this kind of music, so this has been great for me!)
EDIT: Thought of another artist I like!
Edited by Capn Easy, 04 July 2009 - 06:51 PM.