With the number of U.S. music fans downloading music online increasing by double digits yearly it's become obvious that downloading is the new way to do music.
For sure there have been, and in fact continues to be issues with legal-vs-illegal but follow this very simple guideline and you don't have to be concerned about the feds showing up at your door.
The bottom line here is just like in the real world DO NOT copy your music and sell or give those copies away to anyone. That's where the file sharers go wrong.
It's that simple.
With that often misunderstood bit of information cleared up I'm now going to contrast and compare a couple of the better and yes, perfectly legal online music download services.
Two of the best music download services I've had the opportunity to try out are eMusic and Napster.
What are the best features of each service?
Napster: Despite it's rocky past the new Napster is a perfectly legal music download site and their full library of digital music, [over 2 million songs] is completely free to listen to. You only pay if you decide to download a song or two to your computer, iPod or other MP3 Player. And Napster has a variety of subscription options to choose from which means you're sure to find a plan that's right for you. Most users will be impressed with the overall depth and breadth of the Napster catalog. Very few searches turn up no results.
eMusic: All the tunes available through eMusic are legitimately licensed from record labels and artists, so you don't have to worry about a midnight visit from the authorities here either. eMusic is now advertising that they have over 1,000,000 high quality MP3 files from 1,200 independent music labels. The collection is mostly filled out in the rock genre, but they also have an outstanding assortment of jazz and blues, as well as a surprisingly large selection of world music. I found the MP3 music downloads available through eMusic were of the highest quality.
What are the performance highlights of each service?
Both Napster and eMusic seem to be built for use by those with broadband connections. Neither one of them says so explicitly but it's pretty clear. Besides, downloading files as large as even small music files is best done with a high speed internet connection.
How easy are these services to use?
Again both, Napster and eMusic offers a freely downloadable application for use in conjunction with their service. Both are just a few mouse clicks to download and could not be simpler to install. Each user interface is of course completely different from the other but both can be easily learned upon spending a few minutes playing with it.
What about value for the money, which is better?
Napster: Offers three levels of membership and service. At the minimal, free level, members can stream almost any track in the Napster catalog up to 5 times each. If you're interested in downloading and having unlimited listening capability you'll pay $9.95 per month. With either of these levels you'll also have the option of purchasing a song outright for .99 each. If you use your music in conjunction with an iPod or other portable device it's $14.95 per month to fill your device with unlimited downloads.
Throughout the Napster site at all levels of membership you have the ability to freely listen to :30 second samples of songs.
eMusic: Has three levels of membership as well. For $9.99 per month you get up to 40 downloads, for $14.99 you get 65, and for $19.99 per month you get 90 downloads. These are high quality MP3 downloads and are on a per month basis, and do not rollover. To borrow a term from the cell phone industry.
So which is better?
The million dollar question. I have to say it really depends on how you use and listen to music. With Napster your music is tied to your computer unless you purchase the track or entire CD outright at .99 per song. This differs greatly form eMusic where with either service level you actually download MP3 files so you do have the option of burning CD's more freely.
I really like several things about each service but mainly with Napster the sheer size of their catalog is very enticing, and with eMusic being able to download burnable MP3's is certainly a desirable feature.
Like I said, I guess it just comes down to what's important to you in determining which service is right and will work best for you.
I've given you a point from which to start your thinking process here. For complete information on the eMusic download service goto http://www.smoothlee.com/emusic.htm
now. Alternatively, you'll find complete information on the Napster music download service at http://www.smoothlee.com/napster.htm
Clyde Lee Dennis, a.k.a. "SmoothLee" is an AVID music fan, smooth jazz in particular, and in addition to writing CD Reviews for ILoveSmoothJazz.com can also be heard during his radio show which airs online daily at Smooth Jazz 24/7
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