MP3 stores

Originally written for eVent! magazine [ep] on 03/16/06.

Ever since my January article about the hunting outfit in Vernon that lets visitors hunt human beings, the world’s most dangerous game, for the weekend and then lets you mount your trophy’s head on a wooden board so you could have the man that you shot hanging over your fireplace back home, I’ve been under strict orders from eVent! only to promote things that are legal. 

So my article on how to shoplift music from CD stores is put on hold.  (Hint step one involved cross-dressing to confuse the clerk).  Instead I’m going to write about a few legal ways to get music from the internet, and while it’s doubtful that I’ll be able to work cross-dressing into the article the nice thing about the internet is that if you do feel like putting on a nice soft angora sweater nobody’s going to know.

On the internet there are many illegal ways to get music, a few quasi-legal ways to get music and then legal ways to get music.  Here we’re going to deal with the legal and quasi-legal ways to get music.  Don’t bother writing in saying, “Well I can get music for free using bit-torrent.”  Yes you can, and if you don’t mind putting on a dress and faking a fainting spell in the mall you can get music for free by shoplifting too.

And now for a quick note about digital rights management or DRM; because record companies hate their costumers they insist that most services use some sort of digital coding that places rules on songs that you buy from the internet, so that you can not just go and give them out for free online after buying them.  It’s because of DRM that I’m not looking at stores like Napster that lets you rent music for a monthly fee.  With stores like that if you stop paying the monthly fee you lose the music, and I really don’t see the attraction in paying for something I don’t get to keep.

iTunes (www.apple.ca/itunes)
Cost:  $9.99 and up per album or 99 cents a song which is generally cheaper than you’ll pay in a store
Additional: Also offers music videos, free podcasts, weekly free tracks
DRM Rules:  Songs can be loaded onto an iPod (only an iPod), burnt onto a CD and then copied by anyone, and put on up to five other computers.  If you’re willing to spend the time burning all your songs onto CD and then recopying them you can remove the DRM and use the songs with non-iPod MP3 players.

If you’ve got an iPod then iTunes is the program you’re familiar with, and buying music from there is as simple as clicking that little green thing that says music store on the left of the program.  Apple’s interface is the nicest, the search function is great and the selection is nearly unbeatable. 

emusic (www.emusic.com)
Cost: 25 free song trial period and then varying monthly rate based on usage
Additional: None that I could think of
DRM Rules:  None, they’re in MP3 format and open so they can be used with the iPod or any other MP3 player

emusic would be a perfect system if it weren’t for selection.  A low monthly fee lets you download songs and unlike other services like Naptster or Yahoo you actually own the songs and aren’t just renting them.  The only reason iTunes beats them is that iTunes has a large selection of both popular and indie artists, while emusic is focused mainly on American indie bands.  Which is fine if you want to get the latest album from Vancouver’s Destroyer or pickup some Stereolab or Dan Bern but not so great if you want the latest from Madonna.

Since mainly American indie labels are on there the other thing is that sometimes an artist will have their earlier albums in the emusic store but when they get signed to a major label their new stuff stops appearing.  So while you can’t beat the price, you can beat the selection.

All of MP3 (www.allofmp3.com)
Cost: Like a penny a song
Additional: Probably illegal but the site is based in the legal black hole that is Russia so…
DRM Rules:  None, the songs are MP3 format and can be used on the iPod or any other player

Good selection, amazing prices and it works with anything that’ll play MP3s the only draw back is that All of MP3 is sort of as close to being illegal as you can get, and actually might be against the law anyway.  The site is uses a lot of legal sounding language to explain why they can sell you songs for so much cheaper than any other site on the internet, which mainly seem to amount to that since it’s based out of Russia they get to operate outside the laws.

While stealing music off of the internet might not seem as bad as dressing up in flannel to hunt a human beings for sport, it still is against the law.  So use these services, save yourself a bit of money and try these services out.