Give credit where it’s due—Apple’s iTunes music store has revolutionized the way we buy, discover and enjoy music, podcasts, videos, TV shows and even movies. But since its rise to prominence, a few competitors have cropped up to challenge its supremacy over the digital music market. Today, there are several places where you can get the same high quality music at a lower price than on iTunes. Here are a few places to look before settling on iTunes high prices.
1. The Band’s Own Website
Radiohead did it most famously, but other independent artists have been self-releasing or self-distributing digital music for years. By buying directly from the artist or the artist’s label, you can usually get a better deal. Not only that, more of the proceeds go directly to the artist, which is a great way to support musicians. The best deal you can get is a CD or LP purchase that comes with an instant MP3 download. You can usually choose several different formats, and independent web sites are usually more lenient about downloading MP3s again if you have a hard drive failure or otherwise lose track of your digital copy.
Amazon.com has an extensive collection of MP3 downloads. Originally, Amazon poached a significant portion of iTunes’ market share by offering DRM free downloads. But now that iTunes also offers DRM free formats, this gap is a bit smaller. Still, Amazon MP3s are often less expensive on a per song or per album basis than iTunes music. Amazon’s downloader automatically adds songs to your iTunes library, making it an even more viable iTunes alternative.
The number one reason to give eMusic a try is their free download offers for new members. You can get quite a few songs for free right off the bat. After that, you can get reasonably priced songs one at a time or by the album. eMusic.com also has information about upcoming shows and other information, making it more like a MySpace music profile than a static artist catalog entry.
4. Zune Pass
This is a completely different creature than the a la carte song purchasing scheme from iTunes, but it’s worth mentioning as an alternative. Zune Pass lets you download as many albums as you want as long as you keep paying your monthly subscription fee ($14.95). Each month, you get to keep any 10 tracks. Once you stop paying your monthly dues, you’ll no longer be able to play your songs.
For portable devices, you’ll have to have a Zune player or Windows Phone 7. So, if you are an iPhone or iPod user, Zune Pass may not be feasible.