Get Free MP3s, Legally

Susie Ochs's picture

Get Free MP3s, Legally



If you’re not down with pre-beta software, or you just like iTunes and don’t want to switch, you can still take advantage of automatic MP3 blog scraping via a shareware app called Peel ($14.95, Peel lets you make a list of your favorite MP3 blogs, and then makes it a total snap to get those tracks onto your hard drive and into your iTunes library, without you lifting a finger.


To add music blogs to your list, you click the plus-sign button (or Blogs > Add Blog, or Command-N) and enter the URL for a music blog, and it shows up in a list in the left pane of the main window. Every time you launch Peel, it checks the blogs in your list for new tracks and indicates how many it finds in a little green circle. You can set the preferences to download songs from one blog or all your blogs automatically, add the tracks to iTunes automatically, and even automatically create a new playlist within iTunes for each blog. Or Peel can just show you what’s been posted, stream them for you in the built-in player, and let you pick and choose individual tracks you want to download and send to iTunes.


You can toggle between seeing the actual blog webpage or a list of the songs by clicking the Playlist and Web tabs at the top of the main panel. Or you can highlight a blog in your source list and press Command-O (or Blogs > Open Selected Blog in Browser) to launch the site in your default browser. The blog pages display perfectly within Peel, clickable links and all, but since the interface lacks an address bar or bookmarking features, it’s really more of a viewer than a real Web browser.


Peel has a Web tab that shows you the blog page, and a Playlist tab that displays just a list of songs for download.


When you add a new blog, check the box to have Peel download the songs automatically.


If you don’t tell Peel to download everything automatically, you can preview the tracks by streaming and then pick just the ones you want to download.


Automatic For The People

It’s a cinch completely automate a system for always having new music on your iPod using either Songbird or Peel. Just set either app to launch at startup so it can download the tunes, and you can send fresh tracks to your iPod every day, just by connecting it to your Mac.


If you want to use Songbird, first disable iTunes from automatically launching when you connect your iPod. In iTunes, select your iPod in the source list and uncheck the box for “Launch iTunes with this iPod is connected.” You should back up whatever’s already on your iPod, because when you sync it with Songbird in an upcoming step, the app will erase what’s on there now.


Then, in Songbird, all you have to do is subscribe to each blog by clicking the Subscribe button, which looks like a little page with a globe on it. Songbird will download the tracks automatically and add them to a playlist for each blog. (Make sure to change the playlist names, or Songbird defaults to the last part of the blog’s domain name and you’ll wind up with a bunch of playlists named blogspot
.) Now select your iPod in Songbird’s source list and use the checkboxes to tell the app to automatically sync your whole Songbird library (here’s where you could add the songs that were previously on your iPod back onto it), or just sync the playlists created from your blog subscriptions. Click Apply, then click Sync, and from now on Songbird can load up your iPod with new songs every time you connect it to your Mac. Just keep in mind that your iPod can only have songs on it from one app—Songbird or iTunes—at a time. But since your iTunes music can also go in Songbird, you can work around that.


Setting up an automated system in Peel is even easier. In iTunes > Preferences > Advanced, check the boxes for “Keep iTunes Music folder organized” and “Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library.” Then as you add blogs to your list in Peel with the New Blog dialog, check the box for “Automatically download new songs.” Go to Peel > Preferences > Downloads, and specify a temporary destination. Then check all three boxes next to the word iTunes: “Delete files after adding to iTunes,” “Add downloaded files to iTunes,” and “Create playlist for each blog.” Since you set Peel to launch at startup, it’ll check those blogs for new music every time you turn on your Mac, download the songs and add them to iTunes for you. Then you just go back to iTunes and set those new Peel-generated playlists to automatically sync whenever you connect your iPod. That’s it.


Which Rocks Harder?

Honestly, both of these cats can shred. Your best choice really depends on your comfort level: Peel is currently at version 1.0.7, so it’s more stable and runs better than the alpha-level Songbird 0.4, and you can get developer support for Peel if needed.


Songbird has a couple of weird quirks—for example, you can’t quit with Command-Q. You have to quit by right-clicking the Dock icon or going to Songbird > Exit in the menubar. But with an open API and the ability to use add-ons and customize the entire experience, it’s just got so much potential. And of course, it’s free. But Peel is a lean, mean, incredibly convenient and easy-to-use app, and easily worth twice its price.


If you do go with Songbird, just keep in mind that it’s not going to work perfectly all the time. You might want to back up your music if you don’t do so already.


Then you’re all set to expand your musical universe by listening to the Web.




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Yup, Songbird is still targeting early adopters and developers... which is why we've labelled it a Developer Preview. We actually just released Songbird 0.5 earlier this week, which includes fixes for some of the quirks you may have noticed -- including Mac accelerator/hotkeys like Cmd-Q.

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