Tech @ 10: Digital Music Stores

By: Mikel Lauber
By: Mikel Lauber

I’ve never been an iTunes fan. I’ve always had iTunes installed on my computer, but rarely use it. The main reason is the same reason I’ve never purchased an iPod: Apple insists on having too much control over the way you use your music.

However, just last week Apple finally listened to users like me, and dropped one of their main instruments of control – iTunes D.R.M. This means music you buy from iTunes can now be copied, burned, shared, and put onto whatever device you wish.
Normally this may have been enough to get me to start using iTunes, but they also introduced a new ‘tiered pricing’ structure. Rather than a flat $0.99 per song, songs are now priced at $0.69, $0.99, or $1.29. Unfortunately, much of the music the average user is interested in has jumped to the $1.29 price.
Apple says (and I have no doubt it’s true) that the price hikes are because of the demands of the record labels. However, alternative music services have managed to keep their prices lower than iTunes.
My favorite of the alternatives is Amazon MP3. I’ve purchased my music almost exclusively from them for more than a year. All of their music is DRM-free. It’s also MP3 format, meaning it will play on almost any device, including iPods!  iTunes’ ACC format is still slightly less compatible. Most importantly, Amazon’s almost always the cheapest-priced website to download new albums.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check around. Walmart has an online music store that’s very competitively priced, and buying a used old-fashioned CD can still be the cheapest way to get older music.
Now that iTunes is DRM-free, I’ll be more likely to check out their store for the occasional exclusive track, or to see how their pricing compares. But my go-to for that quick music fix is Amazon for the time being.
What do you think? Is there a reason you’re loyal to iTunes? Or is there another place you get your music?
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