Which legal MP3 download sites are decent?

My wife wishes to download songs but I don’t want to get into trouble so was looking into iTunes and Napster. While searching I found several sites that appeared to be legit but upon further searching seemed to just connect to the illegal networks while charging you fees.

I’m interested in a site that lets her download MP3s and not some weird file format that requires a special player, basically because MP3s are all I know and I like the ability to back them up or burn them easily with my current software. Basically I don’t want to get say iTunes and be forced to use their special player and only while connected to their network, etc (not that this is true with iTunes, I really have no clue in this area).

Are there any good ones out there that you’ve used? Thanks!

I use AllofMp3

As nice as allofmp3 is, its legality is questionable. No idea what the ruling would be if it actually went to trial or the WTO or something. iTunes is probably your best bet, although you might have to convert out of AAC to a CD then back to MP3, depending on your hardware.

Until its ruled illegal, its perfectly legal as far as I’m concerned. I’m aware of its unclear status, but until a court says otherwise, I’m good to go. Hard to beat 5 cents a song.

A lot depends on what sort of music you’re interested in.

emusic.com, which I’m a member of, is great, but not for current pop music. They have a pretty generous selection of classical, jazz, blues and indie rock, and I saw the other day where Comedy Central had signed on, so you can get comics like Mitch Hedberg, Lewis Black and others. The format is plain .Mp3, no strings attached.

My plan is $9.99 for 40 songs per month. I think it’s a pretty good deal, especially if you like Classical or Jazz, as they usually have long tracks (which may be 10 or 20 minutes long, but still only count as one track downloaded). They have bigger plans and “booster packs” you can buy if you run out of downloads early in the month and find something you can’t wait for.

I think you get a free trial of something like 50 tracks too. If you’re interested and you want to use my referral link (I get something like 10 free tracks…no big deal), let me know and I’ll email you. Otherwise, feel free to hop on over to www.emusic.com and check it out.

Sounds good, unfortunately my wife is probably only interested in current pop music (bleh), so I might need to find something else. I’ll look into it though and if I go for it will use your referral link.

I don’t use allofmp3 but…

Does it matter whether something is legal or not if it’s ethical and you can’t get caught? Big Business loves globalization because it can use the cheap labor. Why shouldn’t joe consumer shop globally for the best prices?

As far as risk goes, getting tunes from them is orders of magnitude safer than doing it via p2p. And i’m talking MANY orders of magnitude.

It goes like this:

1-RIAA must somehow guess that you’re using allofmp3 to download your tunes. There is no other way for them to know. Allofmp3 sure as hell isn’t going to provide them with names/ips of customers. (probability: minimal)

2-RIAA convinces police they should investigate you without any proof. (probability: minimal)

3-Police asks your ISP to allow them to monitor your line. ISP won’t comply without a court order.

4-Judge , without any proof, authorizes the wiretap (probability: minimal)

5-Evidence is admitted in court (probability: not sure…)

As you can see, you are pretty darn safe.

Still, I recommend buying cds in stores. Can’t get any more legal than that. Failing that, use itunes or similar services. All very legal too. I also recommend sending checks to artists because they only get a few cents for each cd they sell which really sucks. And don’t jaywalk.

I’m sleepy. Good night.

Searching through eMusic was agony for me. Hundreds of titles, but nothing worth downloading. After several days of searching (okay; maybe a total of five hours), I downloaded a total of one song, and even that sounded like it was from a bootleg. Canceled with 49 free tunes left. Back to iTunes for me.

If you’re looking to possibly download some free and legal mp3’s, try


They offer thousands of mp3’s, mostly of indie and lesser known musicians. While you’re not gonna find any Top 40 hits on there, it helped me get connected to most of my favorite current bands. They also have lots of neato features, like links to similar bands, full band info, and good categorization. Might look into it.

iTues files are in WMA format and can be read by anything capable of reading WMA files; I’ve had no problem getting RealPlayer to read songs bought via iTunes and vice versa. You would need to convert them to MP3 if your favorite player can’t handle WMA.

BTW: if your favroite player can handle MP4 files then it shouldn’t have any trouble reading WMAs. They’re virtually the same format.

Unless it has changed in the last 9 months, Apple’s iTunes is not in WMA format. I believe their format is AAC. I’m not sure if any players other than the iPod that handle AAC format, while the bulk handle WMA (Apple’s iPod being a notable exception) and (nearly) all handle MP3. To get an AAC format into MP3, you have to burn it to a CD, then rip to MP3, which reduces the quality of a track that was already at a less than CD quality.

Well, the thing with allofmp3.com is that they’re based in Russia and apparently made payents (as in, one large blanket payment) or are making payments (as in, monthly royalty payments) to Russia’s version of the RIAA - it’s not exactly clear which. In any case, it seems that the Russian RIAA is fine with this setup, even if the American one is not. But it appears that the site is perfectly legal in Russia.

So the legal question appears to be - is it legal to download the content from a Russian site if one is an American? No one has been busted for it yet and there aren’t a lot of legal precidents for it, either. After all, one could easily argue that buying a CD overseas and bringing it home is perfectly legal. But with the electronic transmission thereof, everything gets murky.

We’ve argued about allofmp3 a lot at Ars Technica. As you might imagine, the IP Nazis say it’s outright stealing*, while the majority of us think it’s OK. Until a court says otherwise, I’d keep downloading from there.

    • what’s with some of those “IP Nazis” anyway? I mean, I don’t have a problem (in theory) with paying artists for the music I download (I do have a problem paying for DRM’ed lossy-compressed crap though). Anyway, some of the IP Nazis at Ars actually called people that bought music from legitimate overseas sellers (like Amazon UK) “thieves”! And I’m sure you remember the TV exec that said that anyone who fast forwards through commercials is “stealing”. Jeez - just when you thought the “War on Drugs” was were you would go to find unfounded hysteria, this sneaks up on you!

My mistake, it is AAC. They can be played with RealPlayer though.

Note that AAC, itself, is an open standard audio format. Apple’s using a protected AAC for their iTunes music store, which (so far) hasn’t been licensed to anyone yet. Your iPods and iTunes-programs will play protected- and unprotected AAC files just fine.

WMA, in contrast, is 100% property of Microsoft.

And your point is… ???

Okay, this is totally off-topic, but there is a much easier way to convert sounds into MP3. Here’s how I do it: just get any sound recorder (such as GoldWave) that can save to MP3, then (assuming you’re using Windows) go into the Volume Control (you can usually double-click the little speaker icon in the task bar.) Click on “Options->Properties->Recording” and then instead of “Mic volume” click the little check box that says something like “Stereo Out.” This means anything playing from your sound card can be recorded using any software capable of recording from the mic. I don’t know if it’s 100% legal, but I’ve ripped music from stuff like streaming webcasts and video games using that method.

Of course, unless you save directly to WAV or some uncompressed format, you will end up with a lower quality version of the song than what you started with.

Drawing a distinction between plain-jane AAC (for which non-Apple players and encoders do exist) vs. protected AAC vs. protected WMA. Technical nitpickery, in other words.

Regarding allofmp3.com:

Do users simply download the songs from a link on webpage, or does it go through a P2P application? If it’s an app that is true P2P, whereby the stuff you download is uploaded to others (possibly even just chunks of it before you even have the whole song), I wouldn’t take the risk. I doubt the courts or the RIAA would care that the website you got the P2P app from claims to be legal. You’d still be (probably) distributing copyrighted material illegally.

But if it’s just a browser download from a link on a page, then I don’t know if there’s anything to worry about from the user’s perspective.

I use the same. Supposedly it’s legal in Russia, but I download from there because it’s so cheap and the mp3s are perfect–no skips or anything.

I do admit that I became a little bit suspicious of the legality of the site when, during a search, I came across some mp3s labelled bootleg recordings. :dubious: