A Guide To Downloading Music

Posted on: 30 May 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Did you know, downloading music is cheaper and more convenient than a trip to the shops.

If you’re wondering about which song or album to buy next, why not save yourself a trip to the local shops and buy your music online.

That, in a nutshell, is downloading music.

A music download takes place online on the internet and involves the purchase of a song or album available for download from a website.

What Do You Mean “Download”?

Downloading is obtaining a file from the internet and bringing it onto your home computer. Some of the most popular kinds of downloads are software, movie trailers and the most popular of all, music.

With the new breed of music websites, rather than going to the shops and coming home with a CD, you can now pay to download songs and listen to them on your PC, as well as a range of other devices including MP3 players and iPods.

Why Download?

If you’re bursting to hear the new album from your favourite artist, and it's 11pm at night, or you have meetings all day at work, relax.

Simply log-on to your computer, connect to the internet and select individual tracks and albums to download from a reliable site – 24 hours a day, seven days a week and from the comfort of your own home.

Apple’s iTunes for instance has a gallery of over five million songs to choose from including numerous exclusive “download-only” tracks from popular artists.

However, not all artists are available to download on iTunes, including some popular ones such as The Beatles and Garth Brooks.

Most sites also have an easy search feature to cut time and stress as you look for your favourite tracks.

What Do I Need To Download?

Each of the available sites will tell you the minimum specifications and provide you with the software needed to use their service.

But for all of them you will need a computer with plenty of hard disk space, a sound card and a connection to the internet.

To get the most out of any download site you will need a broadband connection as songs can take hours to download on dial-up, as opposed to minutes.  But don’t worry if you just have a dial-up connection to the internet, you can still download music - it’ll just take longer.

Where To Download?

Apple, who were enjoying success with their iPod digital music player, launched their own iTunes Music Store in April 2003, which had the backing of most of the major record labels.

Napster launched its own, fully stocked legal store six months later and a number of other stores opened in the months that followed, including charities such as War Child and more recently services from O2 and T-Mobile that allow you to download music directly to your mobile phone.

You can also download music from the following sites, all of which contribute to the Official Download Chart:

iTunes, Napster, MyCokeMusic, Amazon, Woolworths, 7 digital, Playlouder, MSN Music, Big Noise Music, HMV, Virgin, Tiscali Music - and you will find links to all of these sites at the end of this article.

How Do I Download?

First you will have to pick which site is best for you. Although many of them share certain tracks, all of the sites have different music catalogues.

Be sure to have a browse through a few of the different sites and decide which one is for you before you register. To register and buy songs you will have to give the site your credit card details, so make sure that you are buying from an established and secure music provider otherwise you could be overcharged or even worse have your details stolen.

Napster have recently introduced a pre-pay service that works in a similar way to mobile phones. You can buy cards for it in branches of Dixons, so you don’t need a credit card.

Sites such as iTunes and MyCokeMusic allow you to buy songs individually, without having to subscribe to a service but some sites, such as Napster ask you to sign up and pay a set fee per month.

iTunes’ service allows you to “taste” as many songs as you like and only pay for ones you wish to download to your machine.

When you sign up to your chosen site, you will usually be given instructions on how to download software to play music before you even download a song. The software for each provider does vary.

If you already own an iPod you already have all the software you need to play the downloaded songs on your computer whilst Napster, MyCokeMusic and many others will need a piece of software called Microsoft Media Player which comes already installed with most PCs.

If you want music on the move, to hear your tunes on the beach, on the way to work or in the garden then you’ll need to transfer them into a portable music player (MP3 player), such as an iPod.

There are plenty of MP3 players on the market, ranging in size of memory and style, and it’s usually a simple matter to plug them into a computer and transfer the songs across.

However, if you don’t wish to use an MP3 player to listen to your music, all of the major services allow you to burn downloaded songs on to CD for personal use, so if in doubt you could always stick to the trusty portable CD player.

Once you have downloaded a selection of songs, you can compile a playlist – a group of songs in an order chosen by you.

From this playlist your software can burn an audio CD for which you will need a blank CD, available in most computer shops as well as music stores.

How Much Does It Cost To Download?

The average price to download an individual song is around 80p, whilst the average download price of an album ranges from around £7 - £9.

As well as being more convenient than a trip to the shops, music downloads are also cheaper than their CD alternatives.

There are even many legal freebies to be had – various sites provide tracks by up-and-coming artists keen for exposure, while labels often dish out a free song to help promote an album.

Make Sure It’s Legal!

There are 100’s of sites offering legal downloads of music whilst a small number of growing record labels and artists have started selling MP3s directly from their own websites.

In October 2007, the band Radiohead made history when releasing their seventh album In Rainbows.

The group offered the album as a digital download from their website for which customers could choose their own price.

There are however, a number of illegal file-sharing websites offering music free to download.

These sites, such as Limewire, breach copyright laws and should be avoided so always check to make sure the site you choose is safe and legal.







7 Digital Media


MSN Music

Big Noise Music



Tiscali Music

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