How to download music for free: Best tools for downloading music and podcasts to listen offline

5 min read

Finding free music online and saving it on your Mac it is not as easy as it should be. While there are plenty of artists who’d love you to hear their music and who are happy for you to download it for free, the process of finding and then downloading it can be a bit of a pain.

Even if you know where to go looking (and we’ll help you with that in a minute), saving lots of individual tracks in a web browser one by one can be a slow and frustrating process. That’s where a smart music downloader can help.

Where to get free music to download

There are of course, lots of places on the internet where you can find free music to download. But many of those places link to tracks which included cracked files or music the copyright owner hasn’t given permission to share.

It’s important that when you go looking for free mp3, you only use sources that have permission to share that music.

Here are a few places where you can find free music to download legally:

  • Jamendo. All the music on Jamendo has been made available by the artists on a Creative Commons licence. That means that, while they retain the rights to the music, they’ve agreed to allow it to be saved to your Mac for free.
  • Soundcloud. It's a hugely popular site where amateur and professional musicians, and some well-known names, share music. Not all of it is available to download for free, and you’ll need to create an account. But there are some real gems to be found.
  • Last.fm. It's another hugely popular site that, among its discovery and sharing features, also allows you to save music tracks for free.

Websites for free, legal music downloads

How to download music online

Is it legal to download music for free? Yes, as long as the copyright owner consents. On all of the sites listed above, the rights owner has consented to allow their music to be downloaded. 

There is a number of both paid and free tools that help download free music. Based on your requirements, decide on the functionality of a downloader you’re searching: Should it cover video and torrent as well? Batch downloads? Scheduling?

Here are the key features of music downloader we recommend you pay attention to:

  1. Control the speed of downloads. For instance, Folx splits large files into multiple threads, so they download more quickly.
  2. Schedule downloads so they only take place at times they won’t place too many demands on your computer.
  3. Video and torrents covered. You can get a one-stop downloader for capturing different types of media on your Mac.
  4. Tag downloads to easily find them later.

Get the best music downloader

Setapp offers a number of music and video downloaders in one package – so you can toggle between different features and interfaces or pick one tool that perfectly covers your needs. Once you install Setapp, click on its icon in the menu bar and search for downloaders there. You’ll be suggested Elmedia Player, AnyTrans, Folx, and Downie. On the selected app, click Install and wait for it to travel to your Mac. Double-click to launch the app.

Here’s the quick overview of each of them:

  • Folx: Combines functionality of a download manager and torrent client. This is the best option for capturing large media files, while the app splits downloads in up to 20 streams.  
  • Elmedia Player: A great alternative to Apple’s native media player – QuickTime, with an in-built media downloader.
  • Downie: Video and audio downloader that’s based on superb drag and drop functionality.
  • AnyTrans: A file transferring solution and a media downloader that works with iOS and macOS devices.
  • Pulltube: A universal media downloader that lets you instantly adjust the length of your video and music tracks.

Add the link to the track you want

Once you’ve found a track you want to save, copy the link. To do that, you’ll need to identify the download link on the site – it will usually be an icon with a downward arrow in it. Don’t click it, instead right-click or Control-click it. From the menu that appears, click Copy Link. 

If you use Folx, paste the link with ⌘+V keyboard shortcut. Or the main Folx window, press the ‘+’ button next to the text bar at the top of the window. You should see that the box at the top of the window that opens already has the URL you copied in it. If not, paste it where it says ‘Add URL here.’ To download music from YouTube, select Audio in Quality.

How to download music from YouTube with Folx

It’s pretty similar with Downie – with the exception that you have to drag the link onto the app icon. To extract music from video, navigate to Settings > Extract Audio Only. From there, you can also customize the quality of output files, convert to mp4, or send to Permute – a universal media converter.

Choose where your music are stored

Once you’ve added the link, choose where you want to save it to. If you’re happy to leave the destination at its default, great. If not, you can change it as you like in any app. In Elmedia Player and Downie, open Preferences > General > Put new downloads in/Save files to folder. For those using Folx, you can also customize app’s behavior upon completing a download – quit, sleep, shutdown, or do nothing.

In case you want to move your audio collections across devices, you can do so with AnyTrans for iOS. A handy file transferring app with an in-built media downloader, it helps you flexibly manage downloads – transfer from iPhone to Mac, integrate with iTunes, or copy to any iOS device.

Get music from iTunes with AnyTrans for iOS

Choose when to download tracks

Downie and Folx have scheduling features, so you can choose when the downloads should take place.

To activate delayed queue start in Downie, go to File > Delayed start and select a custom time slot.

Download tracks with Downie app

In Folx, click on the menu and choose ‘Manual’ or ’Schedule’. If you choose manual, the download will be set up and then paused and displayed in the main Folx window. You can start it at anytime by clicking the icon to the left of its name. If you want to change a download from manual to scheduled or automatic, you can double-click it in the main window and change the setting in the menu.

If you choose to schedule, files will be downloaded according to the schedule you create in Folx Preferences.

Download a song and set it as a ringtone

If you can’t stand your default phone ringtone anymore, there’s a solution. You can grab any of your favorite songs from the web and transform it into a custom ringtone with Pulltube app.

You can download music to Pulltube by simply dragging the link into the app window, or saving via a browser extension. After you download your file, click on the scissors button below it and enter the Trimming Mode. In the pop-up window, you’ll be able to play the audio and adjust the length of your ringtone. Once you’re ready, hit Trim and save the ringtone. 

Trim a song to make it as your ringtone

Create a download schedule

If you want to plan multiple downloads, Folx is there to help. Open Preferences from the Folx menu and click on ‘Scheduler’. Now click on the time slots where you want downloading to take place. When the box changes color, click on it twice so it turns bright green. Scheduled downloads will now take place at that time.

Make your own download schedule

Continue customizing

Once you’ve scheduled, think whether there are any other settings you want to twick. If you use Folx, you can select the number of threads into which you want to split the download. The default is two and for most music files that will be fine. If the file you’re downloading is particularly large, you might want to select a higher number.  

Elmedia Player has robust customization options for audio – for instance, you can select audio device and the number of playback channels.

Customize audio download options

Authenticate if it’s required

If the website needs a username and password, click Authenticate. Click ‘Saved Passwords’ and then ‘Add.’ Choose ‘HTTP or FTP password’ and type in the URL of the login page, your username and your password in the next window that opens. Click Ok.

You’re all set. You can now download free music using Folx from any website that makes it available.

Most of the music you find will be MP3 files, which can be played on your Mac. If the files are in a format that won’t run on your Mac, you can use Permute to convert media.

You’re all set. You can capture and manage free music downloads using a Mac app that suits your flow.

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