Music piracy is illegal and deprives musicians of income, but building a large music library can be expensive as well. Fortunately, there are ways to pack that MP3 player with cheap, legal music downloads; some sites feature freebies and samples, such as a free track off your favorite band's latest album, while others allow you to download and discover new bands at low or no cost. Popular online services like iTunes, Rhapsody and Napster also offer cheap downloads of top tracks and hit artists.
Freebies and Samples
When you're looking for cheap downloads, it's hard to beat something free. Amazon.com features a rotating list of free tracks off the latest releases in a wide range of genres, while Epitonic keeps a steady list of free MP3s, allowing you to try out new artists from small record companies. Both sites also have online stores with full albums available for purchase, although the price does vary; if you find an album you can't resist, you'll usually pay between $5 and $15. If you're looking for something esoteric, try the Internet Archive, which has an impressive collection of live concerts, classical music and public domain tunes, all legal and free for download.
Independent and Undiscovered Music
One of the best methods to fill your music library is to expand your tastes; independent and undiscovered artists are an excellent way to not only fill your playlist, but also be ahead of what's cool on the music scene. GarageBand.com hosts free MP3 downloads from up-and-coming musicians; this community asks you to rate the music, giving these acts more exposure. GarageBand.com partners with CDBaby.com, which offers several MP3 albums for $5 each. Boost Independent Music also lists future hit-makers, and every MP3 download is a mere 69 cents.
Subscriptions and Stores
Several online music stores offer cheap, legal downloads: iTunes may be the largest, with downloads ranging from 69 cents to less than $2. Rhapsody and eMusic have a subscription-based download system where you pay a recurring monthly charge for a certain number of music downloads. This can be a bargain if you're only interested in downloading hit singles; if you consistently use all your allotted downloads, the cost is approximately 50 cents per song. Napster, a music site once embroiled in the musical copyright debate, now showcases legal MP3 downloads by featuring a monthly pass for less than $10, which includes credits for downloads and unlimited streaming of any music in the site's catalog, or database, of songs. Also, be prepared to download proprietary software with some of these services; iTunes, Rhapsody and eMusic all require use of their own software to purchase music, although the software also organizes your collection and may have features like CD-burning or streaming media. Napster's software is a simple download manager, which finds your favorite multimedia program automatically on your hard drive and stores your selections there for your convenience.
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