You don't have to risk a lawsuit to get your music for cheap -- or free. More than four years after the Recording Industry Association of America
began suing individuals for downloading copyrighted music from peer-to-peer networks like Grokster , cheap music can be found in a variety of places. Some recording artists are even giving it away. In July, Prince made his new album, "Planet Earth," available as an insert in the Daily Mail newspaper in Britain. Ray Davies, formally of the Kinks, has a similar promotion, where he will offer 1.5 million copies of his latest album, "Working Man's Café," for free on Oct. 21 with the Sunday Times newspaper in the U.K. Alternative rockers Radiohead also are making available their new album "In Rainbows" for whatever each person thinks it's worth -- which means you can choose free -- on their Web site . These free music offers are still somewhat rare and the digital music landscape is still taking shape . But that doesn't mean it has to cost a fortune to build your music collection. Here's 10 ways to build your collection on the cheap: 1. Music downloads: When talking about cheap music, nothing beats free. While the news makes it sound like anything you download for free from the Internet is illegal, the truth is that there are hundreds of thousands of songs that can be legally downloaded in all music genres. These songs may not be the latest hits from the top artists, but there should be plenty of variety to suit any musical taste. You can find a large list of free places to download music at Digital Alchemy . 2. Wikipedia: This probably isn't your first thought when it comes to free music, but if your tastes flow toward classical, the user-generated encyclopedia has a huge list of free classical downloads . Another place to find plenty of free digital classical music is ClassicCat .
3. Contests: Contests and promotions that give away free music downloads at Apple's ( AAPL) iTunes store have been popular over the last few years. Sometimes these events are in relation to purchasing a product. If it happens to be a product you already buy, you'll have a chance at free music. Others are for completing a task, such as taking a test drive or filling out a survey. Keep your eyes open for these contests, as they are a great way to get newly released music at no cost. If it is a large iTunes giveaway contest and you don't want to buy the product or service required to participate, head over to
eBay . Winners who don't need the free downloads will be selling them for less than the regular 99 cents, which is a good way to cut down your costs. 4. The library: If you haven't visited your local library recently, you may be surprised at all it has to offer. Many libraries now feature much more than books and also have extensive music collections. While most of these won't be the latest hits, there should be a nice range of top hits from the past. If your library does have a music section, you'll have the opportunity to borrow a lot of music for free. 5. Estate sales: This is an often overlooked place to add a significant amount of music to your collection. While estate sales featured vinyl album collection in the past, they have been giving way to collections filled with CDs. In many cases the estate will want to get rid of the entire collection in a single transaction, instead of selling hundreds of CDs individually. An offer on the entire music collection can get you some great music for pennies on the dollar. 6. Charitable stores: Many times when people no longer want their music and are too lazy to sell it themselves, they will donate it to their local Goodwill or Salvation Army. The result is that these stores sometimes have a decent selection of CDs for sale.
7. Flea markets: If you have a local flea market in your area, this can be a great place to pick up music at a steep discount. Many people at flea markets will be selling music. The one thing that you may need to be careful about is to make sure that the music is genuine and not an illegal copy. 8. Garage and moving sales: While it's probably not worth your time to go on garage sale excursions for the sole purpose of finding music, if you happen to drive by one during your normal routine, it is definitely worth stopping for a minute to see what music they may have for sale. Since most music being sold at garage sales is music the people no longer want or need, it can mean getting music for dirt cheap. 9. Online auctions: Another place where you can find music offered for well under retail price is on online auctions such as eBay. Here you should be able to find anything that you might possibly want. Deals can be especially good if you find someone selling an entire collection in a music genre that you enjoy, or listing bulk CD auctions. Just be careful to note the shipping costs before bidding, as some sellers try to make their profit there. 10. Used CDs: No matter what, you should never pay full-price for your music, especially if the song or album is more than a month old. You can get music for a fraction of its retail price by purchasing it used at sites like
SecondSpin , Spun or half.com . By using the above sources to help fill out the majority -- if not all -- of your music collection, you should be able to save hundreds of dollars off the retail price while getting much more music than if you relied on your local music store or iTunes exclusively.