If you regularly download music to your iPod or MP3 player, you will find that the costs quickly mount up. While some people turn to illegal downloading to save money, there are legal ways to get cheaper music downloads without having to resort to illegal methods. Here are some tips for spending less on legal music downloads.
1. Shop around
Most of my friends and family stick rigidly to iTunes for music downloads, especially if they’ve got an iPod. When I asked them why, only a few of them knew that you can buy music from elsewhere and still download the tracks to your iPod or MP3 player quickly and easily.
Amazon sometimes has lower prices than iTunes, and it is just as convenient to download music. Popular music can often be downloaded for $0.99, although some are a bit pricier at $1.29. As I write this post, you can currently download $0.99 songs from Lady Gaga (‘Bad Romance’ and ‘Telephone’), Ke$ha (‘Tik Tok’), The Black Eyed Peas (‘I Gotta Feeling’ and ‘Imma Be’), Miley Cyrus (‘Party In The USA’), Owl City (‘Fireflies’), Rihanna (‘Rude Boy’) and Justin Bieber (‘Baby’). [Note: I'm not necessarily a proponent of theses songs :)] For albums, prices vary, but they are usually under $9, unless it’s a deluxe album with extra tracks. Some albums are as low as five dollars. When you first download from Amazon, you’ll need to download their Amazon MP3 downloader to ensure that your purchased downloads are automatically transferred to iTunes. Then, they can be added onto your iPod. This is free and should only need to be downloaded once.
As well as generally being more expensive than its competitors, iTunes songs can only be played on an iPod or in the iTunes library, and you can only transfer tracks to other MP3 players if you burn the tracks to a CD, then import the CD into your MP3 software. Options other than iTunes are often more flexible in this respect. Amazon is just one example.
2. Take advantage of trial memberships
Some sites will offer a trial membership in which you can download songs for free or at a cheaper rate than normal until your trial expires. After this, you’ll be charged for all downloads, and these probably won’t be cheap in comparison to other sites, so your best bet is to cancel as soon as the trial finishes to avoid being charged monthly fees for a service that you don’t intend to use beyond the trial. For example, eMusic offers 25 free tracks as part of their 7-day trial membership, but they don’t include tracks from the big labels, so current chart music won’t be available here.
3. Seek out cheap membership options
Rather than charging you on a track-by-track basis, some music sites will charge you a membership fee and give you free reign to download as many songs as you like. Read the small print carefully before you give your payment details, because some of the sites with small membership fees will restrict how many tracks you can download before you’ll be asked to upgrade your membership. Using a site like Napster is a good option, because they only charge $5 per month for unlimited listening and five downloads per month. If you’re only going to be downloading a maximum of 10 tracks per month, SuperPass may be the better option, because you can download $10 worth of tracks for free each month.
4. Look for free downloads
For some songs, you won’t have to pay anything at all, because free downloads are available on some music sites. For example, Amazon offers free downloads in their “Special Deals” section, and this extends to albums too. These tracks will often be from unknown artists, and you’ll have a hard time finding songs from currently popular artists, but this can be a great way to find new music. Other sites that offer free songs include iTunes (which offers one free track per day), eMusic (which also offers one free track each day), and MP3.com (with free tracks from Ludacris, Vampire Weekend and Radiohead available as I am writing this post). Be aware that while you can listen to the tracks, you may not be able to keep them.
A Word of Caution
There are an abundance of music sites that allow you to download current songs and albums for free or for a maximum of around $1.50 per album, but I’ve chosen not to include those sites in this post, because they seem questionable. Most of these sites are based out of Russia (despite often having .com URLs) and they use some kind of legal loophole that means they don’t need to offer any cut of the profits to the artists whose songs they are selling. The tracks are often much lower quality than you’ll get on iTunes and Amazon, which is why they can charge so much less for the song. If you choose to use one of these sites, they rarely accept Paypal, so using a pre-paid credit card is the best option to ensure that you’re not handing over details of your main credit card(s).
(photo credit: DeclanTM)