I recently noticed Freegal, a music service that does free streaming and even DRM-free downloads for members of various IRL libraries. All 100% legal.

It is limited to a few hours of streaming a day and a handful of track downloads a week - perhaps library dependent but it’s 3 tracks a week for me - but it’s hard to complain about much given it’s free.

It’s also not quite Spotify or Apple Music when it comes to track availability. For example, the only Taylor Swift you’ll find is her entries on a few compilation albums. But they do apparently have a good few million songs to work your way through, old and new. There are definitely some reasonably mainstream 2024 albums available.

The couple of downloads I made so far arrived in 256 kbps MP3 format. I’m sure the purists wouldn’t be satisfied by that, but many of us can live with it. It’s substantially higher kbps quality than Spotify’s free plan gives you, which is a mere 160 kbps.

I did struggle to figure out how to extract the downloaded MP3 files themselves from the iOS app without having to link my phone up to a computer. This could well be a me problem. My easy workaround for now was to use their (mobile) website rather than the app.

In general, libraries have a ton of unexpectedly wide-ranging online services for their members that don’t require you to ever even walk through their doors beyond what’s necessary to sign up for free in the first place. At least in the UK, I’d assume the same is true elsewhere.

There’s been various iterations of digital offerings at my local library. Right now they’re offering free digital access to ebooks, audiobooks and magazines via Libby. Although that content is DRM locked so you do have to use their app to engage with it - unless of course you live somewhere where it’s OK to remove DRM from files.