As the SXSW music/interactive/film superfest kicks off in Austin this weekend, I was reminded of a comment made by this week's interviewee Barry Jenkins. His film Medicine for Melancholy originally premiered at SXSW '08, and later kicked off Independent Film Week (where I saw it). During the Q&A, Barry was asked where he'd found all the wonderful independent music in the film. His answer (I'm paraphrasing here): "I keep a playlist of songs in iTunes by unsigned bands that I think might work in a film."
In this vein, SXSW offers a great opportunity even for those filmmakers who aren't attending the conference. Bands playing at the festival typically release a free MP3 in advance of the show for promotional purposes; every year for the past five years, these MP3s have been collected and released as an unofficial torrent. This is a great opportunity to listen to a lot of music, from bands signed and unsigned. Of course, there's no guarantee that an unsigned band will agree to let you use their music in your film, but the chances are certainly better in the situation where you can ask them directly, rather than deal with a label.
It's my understanding that, because all of these songs have been publicly released gratis, this torrent is legal. I may be wrong, but either way no one's going to get mad at your for downloading this compilation of over 1,000 free and current MP3s. If you need a bittorrent client, for the PC try uTorrent and for the Mac try Transmission.
Start that iTunes playlist in preparation for your next project, or just enjoy the tunes!
Link: SXSW Torrents