Obviously, Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails weren’t the first bands to give away their music for free on the Internet. Some savvy Googling will reveal blogs dedicated to finding bands and labels that give away music for free. In any case, if you’re into out-there jazz, here are a few, um, free free jazz downloads that are well worth your $0:
Bob Ostertag, who’s worked extensively with the likes of John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, Fred Frith and so on, has long offered his out-of-print recordings for free download from his Web site. He’s now up to 15 albums downloadable for free. One is the hilarious and atypical Fear No Love, which is kind of a send-up of cheesy ’80s funk, but performed by legendary free improvisers and prominently featuring LGBTQ-empowering lyrics. A more “standard” free-jazz effort of note is the Say No More series, a bunch of fragmented improvs spliced together into chaotic wholes.
Speaking of funk, most of Steve Coleman‘s incredibly groovy experimental jazz works are also available for free download from the man himself. The Tao of Mad Phat and Def Trance Beat are a couple good starting points. Like Ostertag, Coleman has written extensively about why he gives away his music for free—-long before the likes of Radiohead started doing so.
Insubordinations calls itself “a netlabel for improvised music,” and has 27 full-length releases all available for free download under Creative Commons licenses. I haven’t actually explored most of this stuff, but one that I’ve dug lately is PHAT‘s La Grande Peste, which is sort of like jazz filtered through doom metal. Sister label eDogm has 20 more releases across a wider spectrum that includes electroacoustic improvisation, ambient and drone.
Finally, bassist (and D.C. native) Reuben Radding went through a project last year he called 12 in 2007, in which he released a free recording every month in 2007. These all feature Radding with various collaborators, fully improvised; there’s a ton of material to wade through but it all has a pretty solid baseline of quality, as long as you like free improv (much of this is not “jazz” per se, at least in any sense that traditionalists would agree with).
I’m still working my way through much of this stuff, but if anyone has anything to add, I’m all ears.