Downloading music is a controversial topic nowadays. Despite the demise of Napster, millions of people worldwide still download their tunes without paying a cent. This has been bad news for the record companies—music stores nationwide, even stalwarts of the industry like Tower Records, are closing their doors due to poor sales. That’s the bad news. The good news is that paid downloading sites like Apple I-tunes are immensely popular now. It’s looking like there are still plenty of people willing to pay for their music, but the recording industry is going to have to adjust.
If you’re interested in downloading music, here are a few ways you can do it. First, we’ll cover methods that are usually illegal.
- BitTorrent. With BitTorrent downloading, you have to upload something of yours if you want fast download speeds. If you don’t share anything while you’re downloading, you can still download—it’ll just go a lot slower. This type of downloading is usually better for larger files, like movies or whole albums.
- Peer-to-peer. This is the type of downloading made famous by Napster, and it’s still available via services like LimeWire, Kazaa, and Grokster. These services are free, but they have their downside: sometimes the files are fake or of bad quality, and some programs download software to your computer while you’re downloading music.
- Internet relay chat. This is basically a group chat window where participants can swap files. There’s usually a high download speed, but it can be more difficult to learn how to do it. This method is generally better for the more computer-savvy.
We’re not advocating that you get your music illegally. One big deterrent is that record companies are still trolling for illegal downloaders to sue. The companies are reluctant to disclose how they decide whom to sue, but they do admit that they usually look at those who’ve downloaded 100 or more files illegally. Regardless of how they choose their victims, they always sue for big numbers—sometimes as much as $75,000 or more. Almost everybody they sue—usually parents who didn’t even know their teens were downloading songs illegally—settles out of court for $2,000-$4,000. If you don’t have a couple thousand dollars to lose to the record companies, we recommend you take a closer look at paid downloading.
Paid downloading sites include Apple’s I-tunes store, Rhapsody, and Wal-Mart. These tend to have a good selection, great speeds and sound quality. It’ll usually cost you around $.99 per song—and downloading an album’s worth of songs may wind up costing you significantly less than it would have to buy the whole album. Here’s a breakdown of some of the major paid downloading sites:
- Rhapsody has a library of about 1.5 million songs. Its file quality is higher than that of I-tunes and most other paid download sites, at 192 kbps (kilobytes per second). Its songs, however, aren’t I-pod compatible—which is a big detriment, as most people who own Mp3 players own I-pods. Songs from this site are around $.99 each.
- I-tunes is one of the most heavily-trafficked paid downloading sites. Its files are compatible with I-pods, but not with other Mp3 players. It downloads at 128 kbps, around the lowest and most common quality levels. Like Rhapsody, I-tunes charges $.99 per song. It has the widest selection, with a library of 2 million songs.
- Wal-Mart is compatible with all Mp3 players except I-pods. Its selection isn’t as great as the previous two, with a library of about 600,000 songs. It has a quality of 128 kbps, the same as I-tunes. It’s also a bit cheaper than I-tunes and Rhapsody, with most songs priced at $.88.
- Yahoo! has a music downloading service with a healthy library of a million songs—not as much as Rhapsody or I-tunes, but still a decent selection. It’s higher quality, at 192 kbps, and prices its songs at $.99 each. Yahoo!’s music isn’t compatible with I-pods, but it’ll work on any other Mp3 player.
- BuyMusic is a cheaper option, with a price of around $.79 per song. Its quality is comparable to I-tunes and Wal-Mart, at 128 kbps. Its library is on the smaller side, with 900,000 songs available for download. It’s compatible with all Mp3 players except I-pods.
- AllofMp3 stands out among all paid sites as the clear winner. Its file quality is off-the-charts compared with others, at a whopping 320 kbps. Its library is on the small side, with 500,000 songs. However, if you can find what you’re looking for, this site is an obvious choice—it’s the only one available that’s compatible with both I-pod and other Mp3 players. It charges two cents per MB, which generally works out to around 9 cents per song, on average—an unbeatable price. It does have a downside, however—it’s run under Russian, not American, copyright law. The money paid for music doesn’t get back to the artists or the labels, and because of ethical concerns, it may not last forever.
When downloading music, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Choose legal methods of download—which one you pick will probably be determined by the Mp3 player you use, unless you go with AllofMp3. Either way, for just about a dollar a song, your downloading experience can be safe, worry- and hassle-free. Happy downloading!