Survey: How do you get your digital music?

After over a year of dial-up, we’re finally getting a cable line installed in the next two weeks - and with it, the glories of broadband. Huzzah!

I’ve done some preliminary scoping of the popular music services online now - iTunes, Napster, et. al. I know I want to go legit this time around, I’ve been too long out of the P2P scene and don’t want to invest time and energy to find a “safe” file sharing setup. I don’t mind paying a buck a song.

What I need is help to be an informed consumer. I don’t have an iPod and don’t plan on getting one, so I’m not sure if iTunes is right for me. Napster’s setup seems to imply that if you can only burn tunes to disc if you’re on their monthly subscription plan, and if you cancel, you can’t play your purchased tunes on your PC anymore.

When I buy and download a song, I want to be able to keep it on my hard drive as long as I want, and also be able to burn it to CD. (A wide selection to choose from would be nice, too.) That’s all I’m looking for.

So: Dopers, what music service do you use and recommend? Is there an option out there for what I want to do with my music, without too many caveats?

Thanks in advance!


Do you own or do you plan to buy any sort of portable digital music player?

Yes, itunes is great, provided that you don’t want to buy an mp3 player at some point. They’ll let you burn to CD your songs to play in a cd player or what have you, but if you burn them in the native (.aac?) format as data to transfer to another computer, you’ll have to log in to iTunes on that one to allow it to play. I think each song can only be licensed to 3 computers. The selection is great, though.

Also, if you plan on getting an mp3 player in the future, I’m not quite sure if it’d be right for you. You download songs in apple’s proprietary format (.aac?) that won’t work on any mp3 player besides an iPod. Someone here may know a way to convert the file to mp3, though. (There’s a tool in iTunes to do it, but I’m not quite sure if it’ll let you convert the songs that you download.)

Might try Wal-Mart’s music thing. It’s 11 cents a song cheaper, which would add up if you’ll be downloading a lot of music. But I don’t know anything about how it works or anything… I’ve been meaning to check it out for a while.

I’ve been going with iTunes since last May, with no complaints. (And $159 spent so far.) It has a great selection, and the iTunes software is easy to use and burn songs with.

I use itunes. If you burn the downloaded music to a CD, you can then rip it into whatever format you need,although you will lose the song info (and this removes any copy protection too). Also, .aac files sound a little better than .mp3, IMHO.

I absolutely love’s Rhapsody service- you pay a flat monthly fee and then can stream an unlimited number of pieces from the library. Pretty darn good selection, although some genres are underrepresented. I much prefer Rhapsody’s interface and delivery method over itunes and napster, but of course, YMMV

You can’t beat for low prices or compatibility. No DRM; you pick the format and bitrate.

I was told by a Best Buy drone today that the new “Napster” is selling music in MP3 format now, instead of encrypted WMA, but I don’t think that’s true.

Uh, maybe I’m misunderstanding your message, but the iTunes jukebox program does support/rip/play MP3 files, in addition to the AAC format.

And just to keep things clear, AAC is not a proprietary format owned by any one company, but is an open standard. Apple’s iTunes Music Store sells protected AAC files, whose format is proprietary, but you can rip unprotected AAC files with iTunes and play them on non-Apple AAC player software/hardware.

I don’t own an iPod myself, but I’ve had no qualms about buying music from the iTunes Music Store. I’ve even re-ripped a few purchases into MP3s, and can’t tell the difference.

It also appears to be illegal.

I’ve bought a few tracks from iTunes, and for something I really like, I’m willing to go through the hassle of burning a CD-RW and ripping the songs back to a format I can actually use. But Apple’s backlash against Real (who are a bunch of scumbags anyway, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day) is making me less inclined to give them any more of my money.

Last I heard, that was still in question.

Speaking of legality and burning songs to CD to re-rip them, I believe it’s against Napster’s terms of service to do that. So if you want to stay squeaky clean and still use your songs in an MP3 player, don’t use Napster.

Thanks all, for your input so far.

I should have mentioned in the OP how specific my needs were. I don’t own an mp3 player and I don’t forsee getting one for a while (or until I can buy a good one for $29.95, because I am a cheapskate). I only listen to music on my computer, in the car on CD, or on CD through our surround sound in the living room. Right now, I’m thinking iTunes might be the way to go, thanks guys!
Quote from’s FAQ:

Mmmmm…quasi-illegal Russian downloads… :smiley:
As an aside, there’s a Pit thread within me that threatens to go nuts over the Ulrich-friendly Napster and other pay music services that don’t actually give you a full-use copy of the song for your money. Jeez, I’m playing the game, alright? Here’s your dollar! Give me a file I can rip to whatever format I want, put on whatever media I want, and use until I die without paying membership dues for the rest of my life.

Hmm. Sorry about that… I had thought that only iPods played AACs. Which is good for me, b/c I have a lot of them, and didn’t want to shell out the money on one.

I have found it to be difficult to very difficult to rip music I have purchased from iTunes to MP3 or CDA format. I have done it but it involved transferring it via my wireless network to my laptop and burning it from that HD to CD-R, and then processing it further to get it into CDA format for my bathroom CD player. I have 2 car stereos that will play MP3, but my Soundspace in the bathroom will only play CDA. When I tried to change formats from my desktop (my primary computer and the one I use to purchase and download iTunes music from) it wouldn’t let me.

Since this can be a hassle, I have kept my iTunes purchases to a minimum. I’m still looking for an ideal service.

When MP3 and Napster first emerged, it was, oddly, the first new format that had worse sound quality than its predecessor. It was vastly popular because it was free (stolen) music. Now that you have to pay for it, the only appeal is size. You can have my share.

      • On the other hand, you might want to wait a bit–I heard that the rules of these music places are about to change in the next couple months; you won’t be able to pick the songs you want at all, but it won’t matter much because they will be encrypted in such a way that you will never be able to play them, and you won’t be allowed to download or stream them anyway. But you’ll still be free to say that you listened to them.
        . . . .
        -As long as you don’t say it on a webpage. Because if you do that, the RIAA will have a consultant send you a cease-and-desist order to take the claim down and have your ISP cancel your service.

But other than that, you will be able to do anything you want.

I use

They have a couple different membership levels, but the one I use is 40 songs per month for $9.99.

The songs are all .mp3 format, so you can do whatever you want with them once you’ve downloaded. If you accidentally delete one you’ve downloaded, no problem, just download it again, no charge.

The selection isn’t the best. They don’t have most new, popular stuff. If you’re into jazz, blues, classical, or obscure stuff, it’s a goldmine.

Plus, they’re offering a free trial where you can download FIFTY free .mp3s. Check it out. They’ve got all of George Carlin’s CD releases, and two albums from Lewis Black.
You could use your trial on that alone, and make it worth your while.

MP3 is indistinguishable from the original CD audio at high enough bitrates, and newer digital formats (WMA, AAC, Ogg) sound better at lower bitrates. Don’t underestimate the appeal of a smaller size - you can listen to 10 albums in your car without a CD changer, or carry dozens of songs in your pocket on a flash chip that won’t skip when you’re jogging.

BTW, it wasn’t the first new format that had worse sound quality than its predecessor. That honor probably belongs to 8-track (vs. LP) or MiniDisc (vs. CD).

Now THAT…is sweet. I’m a fan of 50 free anything. I’m sure I can find 50 eclectic tracks I would enjoy without breaking a sweat… shudders in freebee ecstasy Thou rocketh, Garfield226.

Now I just need a spot where I can grab the latest guilty pleasure single once in a while and I’ll be set. I wonder if I enlist the help of my Russian coworker as the download mule… :dubious: :smiley:

Ouch, and ouch again. Thanks for the warning.

Thanks, and no problem.

Just be sure that if you don’t want the account, that you cancel before the month is up (or whatever). They automatically charge your credit card, not bill you, so it’s easy to forget about. On the plus side, it’s only $9.99 (if you go with the plan I’ve got), so it’s not that big of a deal.

iPods will play music/audio files in MP3, AAC, WAV, AIFF (Apple’s old WAV-like format), and’s audio book formats.