PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

News

Downloading music: Beyond iTunes

Christopher Borrelli
Chicago Tribune (MCT)

It has been a year since Apple Inc. became the No. 1 music retailer in the country. To those of us who miss flipping through record bins and CD racks on a Saturday afternoon, that has been a profound drag.

Still, for those who can't remember the last time they bought an album for less than $7 — 1982? J. Geils Band? — iTunes' sweaty death grip on that No. 1 position has become a very good thing, because wild success breeds complacency. And though iTunes has had numerous tweaks and aesthetic makeovers, its basic pricing scheme has remained unchanged for years:

Songs, 99 cents.

Albums, $9.99.

Unchanged until now: Apple recently unveiled tiered pricing for all songs. The most popular songs go for $1.29; less popular songs sell for 99 or 69 cents. What's remarkable about this is not the chutzpah of the idea but that it goes against the direction of online music retailing. Which is, more sales.

Indeed, you may not realize this, but iTunes is not the best place, or even the cheapest, to buy MP3s anymore. It's not the easiest, either. With apologies to the person who bought me a $30 gift card for iTunes recently, but I have yet to use it — I'm saving it for music I'm betting will not go on sale soon. Why spend $10 in credits for the new Bat for Lashes album if Amazon has it for $5.99?

Still, you're worried about music on a different MP3 service playing on your iPod? Well, copy-protected music is less of an issue these days. Most (legitimately) downloaded tracks transfer effortlessly among formats. The question now is price.

Here is a guide to who offers what and for how much.

Incidentally, if you're skittish about leaving the iTunes comfort zone, fear not: Each of the following MP3 stores may ask you to download a new MP3 program — which extracts songs and albums from its site — but each is easy to download and effortless to use. (No, seriously.) And, yes, each MP3 store will funnel these non-iTunes purchases into your iTunes collection.

iTunes

Apple.com/itunes

Selection: More than 10 million songs — the deepest, widest ranging online music provider. Being No. 1 inevitably means being mainstream, and the most hyped and hottest sellers are the standard focus; being Apple, however, they also score nice exclusives, such as full band sets from Lollapalooza — the new Decemberists album was on iTunes almost a week before it was released.

T.I.'s single "Dead and Gone": $1.29

U2's album "No Line on the Horizon": $9.99

What's on sale? A decent but thin selection. Look to the lower left of the music page. Sales are grouped by albums under $9 or $7. Van Morrison's classic "Astral Weeks" is $5.99; the majority are in the $7.99 range, but there are a few steals — the new TV on the Radio record, the last Keith Urban, indie darlings The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.

Wal-Mart

MP3.walmart.com

Selection: 2 million songs, with an emphasis on country and pop hits.

T.I.'s single "Dead and Gone": $1.24

U2's album "No Line on the Horizon": $9

What's on sale? A handful of albums dip below $9 — Adele's "19" ($7), "Breakaway" from Kelly Clarkson ($8) — but $9 is standard. The frustration is with the bare bones Web site, which doesn't spotlight specials or break down by price.

Amazon

Amazon.com/MP3

Selection: 7 million songs — Amazon editors have a nice curatorial habit of spotlighting emerging artists (Neko Case, for example) and pushing classics without forgetting the usual hot and happening hits.

T.I.'s single "Dead and Gone": 99 cents

U2's album "No Line on the Horizon": $8.99

What's on sale? Lots, and grouped by price. But be quick — some sales inch toward $9.99 through the day. That new U2 was released at $3.99. Every Friday five albums are sold for $5 — not lame choices either, but the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss, the new Rise Against, classic Hendrix. The real deal, however, is the MP3 Daily Deal, which is always $1.99 and always interesting — an old Jackson Browne album, the new Silversun Pickups. At less than the cost of a Starbucks, it's hard not to sample.

Rhapsody

MP3.rhapsody.com

Selection: 5 million songs, and about as hit-driven as iTunes.

T.I.'s single "Dead and Gone": $1.29

U2's album "No Line on the Horizon": $9.99

What's on sale? Look to the bottom of the main page. You'll find a few regular spotlight sales — $4.99 classics from the jazz label Blue Note, Kanye West albums for $6.99. Otherwise, the easiest way to find dirt cheap records here is to scan the album chart: Katy Perry's album is $6.99, and the new Andy Samberg rap-parody record is $6.99 — exactly what it's worth.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.