Legal classical music downloads

or file sharing … for free.

Are there any sites? I’m thinking that since copyrights are the issue, maybe classical is different than pop. I realize that recent classical recordings are also copyrighted but maybe the older ones are different?

Classical Music Archives is pretty good. And it’s free.

I know my public library subscribes to a service which allows patrons to stream classical music. You set up the playlist and it stores the selections on its server, so it’s not like you “own” anything, but that doesn’t mean you can’t record the audio as you stream it. I’ve done that before.

But performance copyrights are. Sure Beethoven’s PD, but the NY Philharmonic’s recording of him is not (and given how important record sales are to an orchester, they aren’t likely to allow their copyrights to be infringed).

The Classical Music Archives has some good stuff, and there are some MP3 sites where people put their recordings up for free download. This is nearly always solo instruments or small groups; no orchestra is going to give much away.

Magnatune has some classical artists on their lists. Though they’re selling records, they do allow people to listen for free.

This BBC webpage lists a number of download sites.

eMusic ( is a subscription service which has tons of classical music. Costs $10 per month for 40 downloads per month, BUT there is a free trial with 50 free downloads as well.

There’s Classic Cat. They don’t actually host anything themselves, but rather link to artists who offer their work for free on their own websites. As such, the quality varies immensely from recording to recording, but it’s a wide selection.

Of those I’ve looked at (and those mentioned), Emusic is the better option. However, none has a really substantial catalogue - even the free trial of Emusic left me searching for things I really wanted (as opposed to just kind-of-fancied).

Almost every download site falls into the same mistake, which is charging per-track in the same way as for other genres. Which means that with most multi-movement works, the cost works out the same as buying a CD, yet without the same sound quality.

And none has anything like a wide-enough catalogue. If you’re after more than just any old recording of a particular work, you’re going to be disappointed.

The Internet Archive is a great reference and repository for Public Domain and otherwise legal multimedia. There are several interesting recordings here in the classical vein for download.