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So, how do you get music for your self-hosted server?

Hosting a streaming server on your own is great and all. But it comes with a huge pain in the ass. You have to procure your music in a DRM-free format somehow. And this is the most annoying part of everything, I am pretty sure everyone doing will aggree here. So I’ve decided to write this article with my experience on the matter with the hopes it will help someone.

In short, I’ve am using the following strategies:

  • Get music from artists which distribute it for free online.
  • Download music from royalty-free repositories.
  • Buy a DRM-free digital albums or songs directly from the artist or band.
  • Use a site like Bandcamp and buy music from there if available.
  • Buy a physical CDs and rip it.
  • Buy a vinyl and digitalize it.
  • Sell your soul to the devil and buy a DRM music. Then remove the DRM.

I’ve listed them in order of my preference.

Free Music Online

Well, there are the rare birds who really do this. Such an example is the great Dubioza Kolektiv. They upload all of their music on YouTube and every song has links to download the song itself or the whole album it is part of. No youtube-dl required. Check out their song Free.mp3 (The Pirate Bay Song) to understand their stance on the matter. Guess which Balkan band has the highest chances of attracting me to their live shows as a result.

On the other end of the spectrum we have unknown but very talanted artists who do the same. Such as my friend Velislav Ivanov. He used to have all of his music online but is not doing it anymore. Fortunately I was his “webmaster” at the time and when he told me to get it down I kept a copy for myself! And yes, I will continue to hype him and you will have to get my word about it or try your best internet archeology.

Royalty-free Music Archives

There are places which usually collect music licensed under the Creative Commons license or similar. As an example I know of It is where I found the one and the great Ketsa! And his music has became one of the things I listen to the most the last few years. Especially “Summer With Sound”. I’ve found a way to tip him too. So this worked for everyone involved.

Buying Digital Directly When DRM-free

Chances are that most of the music you want to listen to is not found online for free. Buying music in MP3, FLAC or other regular format is, obviously, the most convenient way. Hopefully the artists you like are sane and sell their music directly. Maybe because they prefer being fed to not. Or because they like shelter, the ability to own new instruments, drugs or whatever artists buy these days.

I’ve had mixed results with this approach, though. There are artists that do this right, there are those who don’t and there are those who don’t even try. Sadly, the majority fall into the last two groups.

For example, when Goldfrapp released their album “Silver Eye” it was aviable for purchase in MP3 format right away so I did that. Their website had a link, I followed it to a store, entered a credit card number, some bytes in databases flipped and I had a download link. Excellent! It hardly took more than 3 minutes. No such luck with Alison’s solo album (The Love Invention) few years later, though. Only links for streaming and DRM purchases. Fortunately the album is not very good. Just a coincidence, I suppose. But on the off-chance it is related my advise to artists is to follow Goldfrapp’s earlier example. “Silver Eye” was great :D

Another example is Doro. I really wanted to buy her old album “True At Heart” last month. But this is literally impossible in my country. No digital versions, no physical copies, nothing. Keep reading for more on this particular quest. Hint, it involves a Bandcamp.

And there are the likes of Tool. They sell a shitload of merch. Strange medallions? Check. Beer mugs? Check. T-shirts? Check. Blankets? Check. OK, blankets is strange but nice. But what about, you know, actual music? CD, DVD or Vinyl and nothing digital. Apparently they were doing this as a some kind of a stance or something. Alright, if you don’t want my money then fine, you shall not have it.

Bandcamp And Similar

There are many artists who have a Bandcamp profile and will sell their music there. Even Doro does! But apparently she sells only her last album there and it is not very good. The curse here works in reverse then? But there are many more artists who use it, god bless them! And they are excellent.

The great about this approach is that you could find many different artists on one place. No need to fight with sketchy and often broken websites some label has put up and then neglected.

Ripping CDs or DVDs

This is easy and great! Obviously, you will have to do some work here. And a CD/DVD-Rom has to be procured if you are, like, normal and don’t have one laying around any more. But I have a USB DVD reader which is kept for this particular need. If you are a Linux user like me, there’s the Arch Wiki to the rescue as always.

The great part here is that you get to own the physical disk as well. Online stores disappear, iTunes is about to close or has closed already, I am not sure. But CDs last. I have the Somewhere In Time bought around the year of 2000 and it still works. It is the digital one with music videos and everything. Despite the choice of QuickTime for Windows, wine is able to handle it all. Overall great experience however you look at it.

And having the physical disk you may at some point decide to, you know, re-sell it to someone. So it is worth far more than the digital download you may get for the same money.

Buying Vinyl

Well, I am paticularly guilty of this. I really like the turntable for some reason. It is so satisfying to place the needle and hear the music. Even the damn clicks from time to time are charming. But the novelty of having to flip and change the disks wears out quickly. What you could do then is to digitalize your vinyls. The easiest way, I belive, is to find a turntable with USB interface. I own a Audio Technica AT-LP60-USB and it is excellent for my needs. When a new vinyl finds its way to my home I capture it via the USB and Audacity the very first time I am listening to it. Here is an excellent manual on how one does everything using Audacity.

Vinyls have all the benefits of CDs and DVDs and seem to last even longer. For example, I recently digitalized one for my mother who has bought it when she was a high-school student. The downside is that they are certainly putting the heavy into my heavy metal collection. Also bulky. And you hate them when you’re moving. Otherwise they are great!

Buying DRM Copies

Well, if everything else fails you may decide to buy a digital version with DRM and then break it. The way I see it, if I’ve bought something then I own it. If I own it then I could listen to it however I like. That said, I don’t really do that since I don’t want to reward with sales users of bullshit technologies.


If you are really stubborn most of the time the music you like will be able to reach your self-hosted music collection. And I suppose the majority of people who haven’t given in to the streaming services already are kind of stubborn.

And if for some reason none of the strategies above produces results then you may try sailing instead. It is very relaxing hobby. No internet means no streaming, even self-hosted. Just beware of pirates, I hear they are becoming active again. In the Red Sea, I mean.