Can't a simply buy and download a song?
March 11, 2007 11:02 PM   Subscribe

Does buying music online really have to be such a pain in the ass? I have WinAmp and an MP3 player. Now isn't there a simple music sales website where I can buy a song without subscribing to some monthly service and downloading yet more software? No iTunes, no Musicmatch Jukebox, no Y! Music Unlimited, no Yahoo Player, no RealRhapsody player...
posted by Tubes to Computers & Internet (42 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like you're looking for All of MP3. I won't guarantee it's legal, though.

Otherwise, companies want you to use their software so they can enforce their DRM. It's lame and stupid.
posted by tmcw at 11:05 PM on March 11, 2007

DUDE! I know! I just asked this question. Personally, I think the service basically doesn't exist, except for, and all of MP3 - which are pretty much illegal too. They skirt giving any royalties to anyone through some weird communist era law making all intellectual property free.

Wouldn't count on even these dudes for long, though, for a couple reasons: 1) All of MP3 is no longer easy to pay for, as most western banks will refuse transactions to them (you need to deal with a shady middleman that mediates credit transactions with russian entities such as XROST), and 2) since a major provision of bringing Russia into the WTO is banning these services which completely disregard intellectual property ownership.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 11:19 PM on March 11, 2007

You are about to see a lot of recommendations for emusic.
posted by anildash at 11:19 PM on March 11, 2007

(I should mention -- emusic is a monthly subscription service, and thus doesn't strictly meet your requirements, but is the closest fit and has many rabid fans.)
posted by anildash at 11:21 PM on March 11, 2007

Except for the music library of emusic is pathetic.
posted by stovenator at 11:22 PM on March 11, 2007

Best answer: No.

This has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions.

(The copyright holders of almost all music - meaning the record companies, not the artists - have made clear that they will not sell songs legally online without DRM [requiring "special software" like iTunes or WMP] or a paid, ongoing subscription. They don't have to sell it to you in formats they don't want, and so they don't.)
posted by mdeatherage at 11:25 PM on March 11, 2007

PlayItTonight. They're specialized (House, Techno, Trance, Electro House, Breaks, D&B and Electronica), but they sell unencumbered mp3s at decent bitrates, no special software or subscription required.
posted by hades at 12:12 AM on March 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Give iTunes a shot -- I'm a Mac-hater, but even I bow down before the simplicity and ease-of-use of iTunes. No subscription -- strictly a la carte -- and literally plug-n-play simple.
posted by davidmsc at 12:16 AM on March 12, 2007

Or you could just buy the CD online and while you're waiting for it to be delivered so you can rip it to mp3, pretend that you've bought a download but the network really, really sucks.
posted by hades at 12:18 AM on March 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


~ start looking for independent artists that you like.
posted by bigmusic at 12:39 AM on March 12, 2007

There's magnatune. I've never tried it, and its selection is probably fairly small. But it looks nice and you can listen before you buy and also choose how much to pay.
posted by lullabyofbirdland at 12:39 AM on March 12, 2007 and both sell tracks without any DRM, monthly fees or special software. However, both specialise in electronica, no idea if that is to your taste or not.
posted by Joh at 1:02 AM on March 12, 2007

There are also a lot of smaller stores for specific labels or kinds of music, like this one for guitar music, this one for Canadian music (!), and a lot more (those are just random ones I've come across.)

Plus, I know this isn't what you asked, but if you're willing to put in the time to look around there are a lot of music blogs that have mp3s for download. There was an askme thread about jazz a few days ago that linked to which in turn links to a lot of others. This lifehacker post also has a ton of links.
posted by lullabyofbirdland at 1:04 AM on March 12, 2007

It's very simple: the major labels refuse to sell MP3s. If you want RIAA music, then you can only buy it with DRM.

To play the music you buy, your MP3 player has to support the right kind of DRM. Most services sell music in Microsoft Windows Media DRM format. That music will only play on your MP3 player if it supports Microsoft's format. If you want to buy from iTunes, you can only play the music on an iPod, since no other MP3 player can legally support Apple's DRM.

If you want to buy music in MP3 format, then you have only three choices:
buy from a service that sells non-RIAA music from independent labels, like eMusic or Magnatune,
buy from a service in a country that doesn't enforce US copyright laws, like AllOfMP3,
or download free music from music blogs and P2P networks.

It's not hard to understand why people don't want to buy music anymore.

Personally, I love eMusic, but I listen to a lot of jazz, blues, and electronica.
posted by fuzz at 1:18 AM on March 12, 2007

Audio lunchbox sells legal, 192kbps VBR mp3s without a required subscription. Of course, it's mostly stuff from smaller labels (like eMusic).
posted by helios at 1:30 AM on March 12, 2007

Also, previously...
posted by helios at 1:31 AM on March 12, 2007

Yup to helios— I came by to recommend Audio Lunchbox. I was doing a story on Nikki Corvette not too long ago and couldn't get a promo by press time. Lo and behold, the only place you could get it was through Audio Lunchbox (even searching illegal means). It was so easy and sweet that I've bought a couple other things from them. I'm not wild about their selection, but it's cheap, easy to use, and not evil.
posted by klangklangston at 1:58 AM on March 12, 2007

Um. Seriously? Walmart's music store has downloads for 88 cents per.

No downloads, but they are DRM-ed WMAs, but no subscription or anything like that.
posted by disillusioned at 3:36 AM on March 12, 2007

In the UK I'm using the 3 Music Store. It's closely integrated with the companies 3G network but it's by far the best I've tried so far. You may need to be a 3 subscriber to access it but someone out there will undoubtedly benefit. They have a huge library.

They use DRMd WMA files unfortunately but if you purchase on your PC you can download it for free again on your mobile and burn most tracks to disc up to 10 times (presenting the possibility or re-ripping them). 99p a track.

Sorry it's not really relevant to your situation (I assume you're in the US based on the other users answers, you neglected to say).
posted by TheAspiringCatapult at 3:56 AM on March 12, 2007

All of Mp3... definately...
posted by curiousleo at 4:25 AM on March 12, 2007

Just pirate it if you are considering buying it from allofmp3. Same moral implications and tends to be cheaper.
posted by Memo at 4:33 AM on March 12, 2007

free, legal and unlimited download here.

Only problem with Jamendo is that you won't find stadium-filling, platinum-selling artists there. But you may find sounds that you like...
posted by Baud at 4:50 AM on March 12, 2007

One alternative is to use online radio stations such as Pandora, Finetune or LastFM. These can deliver a stream of music that fits your taste and which combine a few favourites with some interesting novelties. Just like a good mix tape. Since they are DJ and commercial free with reasonable sound quality they nullify some of the listening shortcomings of conventional radio listening. If you let these services fill a certain proportion of your available listening time then you will have less need for your own downloaded tracks. You can also use them to help isolate tracks you will really like before buying them.

Another orthogonal solution is to pick up second-hand CDs via Ebay, Amazon, etc. You can normally cut the price you pay in half via this method - and none of it will go to the RIAA.
posted by rongorongo at 4:56 AM on March 12, 2007

Most of the better indie acts now provide downloads of a few songs on their official sites. A lot of bands also provide downloads on myspace. This is generally more than enough for me. My music library went from about 90% piracy to 0% with a hard drive crash. I put about 20 or so mp3blogs in my google reader and keep what I like.
posted by srboisvert at 5:48 AM on March 12, 2007

I have historically been against iTunes for a number of reasons:
1) DRM
2) resent being forced to install software
3) some artists record deals pay them much much less for downloads than CD sales

however, i recently gave in when a CD I wanted was $25 imported on Amazon and $9.99 on iTunes.

I now follow these steps:
1) buy from iTunes
2) burn to CD
3) rip mp3s
4) delete iTunes files
5) enjoy music in winAmp, on mp3 player, etc
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:06 AM on March 12, 2007

emusic is monthly and you do have to download a small piece of software to download the music but that software has nothing to do with the music once you download it.

Except for the music library of emusic is pathetic.

No, that would be your tase in music.
posted by dobbs at 6:27 AM on March 12, 2007 [3 favorites]

If you're into electronic music, Beatport is pretty awesome.
posted by Remy at 6:45 AM on March 12, 2007

Also recommending bleep (as mentioned above), and InSound has started selling full-album downloads. You can also find subscription-less digital downloads at Thrill Jockey, and its distributed labels.
posted by pfafflin at 6:57 AM on March 12, 2007

Best answer: As others have stated. The answer is "no" because the RIAA and partner labels dont want you to be able to have that option.

Learn up about binary newgroups and bittorrent and come join the rest of us in 2007. (not promoting music piracy, just being real to the fact that it exists and the proverbial "genie" isnt going back in the bottle. Adapt or die RIAA)
posted by jmnugent at 8:32 AM on March 12, 2007

No, that would be your tase in music.

Perhaps I should have said that emusic's library is only good for indie music snobs?

It's been a long while since I canceled my emusic subscription, but I remember not recognizing a large majority of the bands. Having no method of previewing mp3's. Poor search capabilities.

About the best I could say for emusic, in my experience, was that I got to download a whole lot of Mitch Hedberg mp3s.
posted by stovenator at 8:59 AM on March 12, 2007

Just found this -> DRM Free search
posted by Webbster at 9:22 AM on March 12, 2007

emusic must have come a long way since then, stovenator.
posted by lyam at 10:03 AM on March 12, 2007

Response by poster: Except for the music library of emusic is pathetic.

---No, that would be your taste in music.---

Perhaps I should have said that emusic's library is only good for indie music snobs?

Thanks for that exchange - I got a laugh - but I've been aware of eMusic and other indie DRM-free sites. I should have been more specific: I'm not looking to explore and discover new music. I listen to Sirius satellite radio a lot, and I see TV & movies, and once in a while I hear a song I'd like to own. It's rarely an obscure indie artist, and I'm not slowed down much by DRM as I know I can work around it.

Wal-Mart sounded like the ticket, so I held my nose and checked it out. Their craptacular website required me to download and install IE, which I had purged from my system long ago, and now that I've done that, I try to buy a track and their "Add to cart" button fails to do anything at all.

So I've now spent about 3 hours trying to find a way to legally buy one song I want. I'd given up on P2P networks because of guilt and the uneven quality of uploaded tracks, but I'm getting closer to revisiting that option.
posted by Tubes at 10:32 AM on March 12, 2007

Best answer: Your question is just begging for a link to Cory Doctorow.

This BB post is about how DRM drives piracy.

In a case like yours, there really is no way to buy the song legally, and non-DRM'd, which will likely lead you to Bittorrent where you will download all the music you can take, non-DRM'd, for free.

And it's precisely because of silly restrictions by the RIAA and member companies.

Hey, where'd this soapbox come from?
posted by SlyBevel at 10:54 AM on March 12, 2007

If you're looking for a non-drm'd version of a popular song, it would probably be cheaper* AND easier* for you to hire the band to come to your house and play the music for you live anytime you wanted to hear it.

*factoring in the cost of a lawsuit for downloading it for free, the only other option.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:31 AM on March 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Check CD out from library and rip track(s) to MP3 format.
posted by dgeiser13 at 11:39 AM on March 12, 2007

Here is a very interesting article about why purchasing online music currently has to be such a pain in the ass:
Steve Jobs' Thoughts on Music

He explains the situation, and offers three alternatives for the future. One important point he brings up is the following:
"Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD"

CDs may seem antiquated, but it is the sad state of affairs today that this is the best way to enjoy music freely! Until things change, the legal, guilt-free answer is the simplest (and most old school). You'd be surprised how many people don't want to hold onto their CDs after they've ripped them. I recently bought one — it felt strange, I hadn't done that in years! — and gave it to a friend when I was done. She gave it to another friend. And another. And on and on. Totally legal.

I also purchased tickets to see this artist perform, so I really don't feel bad about giving their CD away, as opposed to encouraging the next 20 people to buy it as well. However, they may just fall in love with the music and come to the show with me. Voila, everybody gets love...and only the tiniest morsel goes to the RIAA.*
posted by iamkimiam at 12:14 PM on March 12, 2007

*I realize that SOME money goes to the RIAA when I purchase concert tickets. Boo.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:19 PM on March 12, 2007

Rough Trade Digital has the indie "feel" of the real life shop (minus the used stuff.) It's all DRM free and much is only available through that store. Licensing restrictions do keep you from buying certain tracks outside of Europe. I really dig it a lot tough. (that's coming from a big fan of CDs and Vinyl)
posted by horseblind at 2:25 PM on March 12, 2007

BitTorrent. Then, if you like the music, go and buy T-shirts - the artist makes more money off them than anything else.
posted by mr. strange at 3:34 PM on March 12, 2007

Usenet binaries newsgroups.

posted by emelenjr at 8:06 PM on March 13, 2007

Response by poster: "If you're looking for a non-drm'd version of a popular song, it would probably be cheaper* AND easier* for you to hire the band to come to your house and play the music for you live anytime you wanted to hear it."


"Check CD out from library and rip track(s) to MP3 format."

Now that I had not even thought of. There must be a library around here somewhere...
posted by Tubes at 12:45 PM on March 14, 2007

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