From Gorillaz to Radiohead via Prince
Will Butler

16:13 23rd July 2015

Music is an expensive hobby. Digital downloads aren't a cheaper alternative and since vinyl became the latest craze, many of our monthly tuneage expenditures have skyrocketed. Luckily there are some artists out there who still believe in the art of charity, they value our appreciation and feedback over monetary gain and as a result, gives us their albums for free. 

It doesn't happen very often and sometimes the albums wouldn't even be worth paying for but that's no reason not to be thankful. From U2's controversial infiltrating with Songs of Innocence to the godsend that was the 'pay-what-you-want' philosophy behind Radiohead's In Rainbows, here are 11 albums that were given away for free.

  • Wilco - Star Wars (2015): Earlier last month (July 16) and out of the blue, the Chicago band gifted us their incredible new album for free until mid-August. It's their most exciting release for many years blending Tweedy's heart-wrenching and vivid songwriting with a nuts-and-bolts style experimentation.

  • U2 - Songs of Innocence (2014): Totally bypassing our prerogative as consumers, Songs of Innocence was free in the same way an airborne disease is free. As a part of Apple's global domination, U2's thirteenth album wormed it's way into our Iphones overnight and resulted in a global twitter beef about the sanctity of our consent. Though, in fairness, it's not actually the worst U2 album.

  • Run The Jewels - RTJ + RTJ2 (2013/2014): The most exciting duo in Hip-Hop, Killer Mike and El-P not only top the leaderboard for the greatest rap group in a decade, they also do for the most economical. Released within a year of each other, their records were given to us to download for free and are both equally amazing.

  • Radiohead - In Rainbows (2007): Without their contract with EMI Radiohead were free to release their music however they wished. The cult favourite, In Rainbows was released online using a 'pay-what-you-want' system. It was a response to the constant leaking of their previous records allowing people to pay nothing for the record, but if you wanted to pay, you could.

  • Prince - Planet Earth (2007): The record was released exclusively with copies of The Mail on Sunday (that's not a joke), who are we to question The Purple One's vision? Planet Earth was the 29th release from Prince and was given away to UK readers however this ended up resulting in a dispute with UK record stores meaning that Planet Earth was never sold in any retailers in the country.

  • Gorillaz - The Fall (2011): The fourth release from Gorillaz arrived on as a free download online, exclusively to fans in the band's fan club. It was written and recorded exclusively on Damon Albarn's Ipad on the North American leg of the virtual band's Plastic Beach tour.

  • Raury - Indigo Child (2014): A longlister on the BBC Sound of 2015 poll, Raury's popularity can be traced back to his first 13 track release with Columbia. The ease of giving it away for free and given this Atlanta songwriter a wealth of fans - expect big things in the future, hopefully free things too.

  • Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment - Surf (2015): It's the closest thing we've got to a Chance the Rapper album but it's also beautiful by it's own merit. Surf is the collaborative project of numerous Chicago musicians known as the Social Experiment. With features from J.Cole, Erykah Badu and Busta Rhymes, Surf is a free-flowing, free-spritied, free album that's not to be missed.

  • Pretty Lights - His whole discography (2006 - Present): Derek Smith might be the most generous man in music. Not only does he release everything he creates under the Pretty Lights moniker for free but every artist signed to his Pretty Lights Music label does too. As an added bonus, it's also actually really good electronica.

  • De La Soul - Their back catalogue (2014): In honour of the 25th anniversary of their debut album , De La Soul made their entire catalog available for free download for 25 hours on their website. For many, this would the first interaction with the legendary trio and the perfect demonstration of their generosity, wholesomeness and tact as both musicians and people.

  • Death Grips - Government Plates (2013): The third studio release from the industrial hip-hop group, Government Plates was accompanied by eleven music videos on the band's youtube channel. Not the most accessible band by any measure, but if they're giving their music away for free, there's no excuse not to give it a go.

Photo: Artwork