Unofficial Freegal – For the Birds: The Birdsong Project
As someone who still regularly downloads music (as opposed to just streaming it), I’ve long appreciated Freegal, a service that offers weekly free mp3 downloads to patrons of participating public libraries around the world. (The easiest way to find out whether your library participates might be to Google “freegal” + your library’s name, or go straight to FreegalMusic.com and click the Log In button. Your login credentials are usually your library card number and PIN.) There are over 15 million songs, including vast swaths of the Sony Music catalog.
Here’s the thing: that’s an unfathomably huge haystack, and good music can be hard to find within it. You want that classic 1956 Peggy Lee album? It’s there, but you’d never have known because it’s buried as tracks 31–43 on vol. 2 of some off-brand label’s licensed compilation. Meanwhile, Freegal’s own promotional efforts tend to be (A) focused on the most popular music and (B) a bit weird, imo. Their email newsletter is sent maybe twice a year and its content seems to bear no strategic relation to their Twitter or Facebook presence, and I dare anyone to make heads or tails of their Instagram account.
Since my mission—as demonstrated in my monthly music show, Gray Days and Gold—is to shine a light on obscure musical gems, I’ve decided to start a regular series of posts titled Unofficial Freegal to highlight items that deserve some love. (And encourage you to patronize your hard-working library.)
First up: FOR THE BIRDS: THE BIRDSONG PROJECT VOLS. I–V (2022). During COVID lockdown, Hollywood music supervisor Randall Poster was struck by how he suddenly became very conscious of birdsong once mankind had quieted down. Since many creatives found themselves at loose ends at the time, Poster launched a project seeking original compositions inspired by birdsong, which swelled into a collection of 245 tracks of music and poetry, originally released in five volumes between May and September 2022. (Freegal has all five volumes individually, as well as a single entry of the monolithic vols. I–V combined.)
I won’t bother listing the luminaries who’ve contributed; you can find them in this post’s images or by clicking through to the project’s website. Suffice it to say that if your tastes run even slightly beyond the pale, one or more of your favorite composers, songwriters, actors, and poets are bound to be represented here. And it’s a great way to discover artists that are new to you, who might be stylistically/philosophically adjacent to your favorites. Despite the star power in this compilation, all five volumes sailed completely under my radar until I stumbled across them on Freegal’s site, making it the most appropriate first entry in this series.
To find these at Freegal’s website I’d recommend typing “for the birds” into the Search box, and you should see all five volumes—plus the master compilation, labeled “vol. i – v”—auto-populate into the suggested searches.
Choose which volume you want, then on the next page of search results click on “See All” in the Songs section. (Clicking through to the Albums or Artists results will mostly get you irrelevant entries or “Page not found”; something about these albums’ metadata is off and borking their ability to show up accurately under the Artist or Album results. Whaddaya want for free, right?)
If you decide to stream or purchase anything from For the Birds via other channels, proceeds benefit the Audubon Society. For vinyl fetishists, there’s a 20-LP boxed set.
If you have questions, suggestions, opinions, etc. please feel free to contact me. And if you’d like to receive these posts via email, you can sign up here.