Several years ago, pay-download music services were limited to just a few sites. Now, a Web search results in hundreds of fee-based sites and programs.
Many of these sites are very similar, both in the songs/albums that they offer and in the fees that they charge. This makes it difficult to choose one that will work well for you.
These tips and suggestions will help you decide what you want and need in a service so that you can make a better decision.
Is this a legal service?
If you are downloading popular music for free, then the chances of it being legal are very slim. However: if you listen to independent music, you can find plenty of free, legal downloads all over the Internet.
You should also be wary of sites that offer unlimited downloads for one set price every month. Some of these services are legal, but many aren’t. Getting as many songs as you can download for ten bucks a month is usually too good to be true.
What songs/albums can I download?
If the service does not offer music by your favorite artists, then there is not much point in subscribing.
How often is music added to the site’s collection?
Many services add not only new releases, but also albums and tracks that have been on the shelves for months – if not years. If the site does not bother working on including backlogs of older tunes, you might want to look somewhere else.
What is this going to cost me?
Many services charge per song, with discounts for purchasing entire albums. Others will let you download up to a certain number of songs for a flat fee every month. Either way, you should think about how much this is going to cost before you subscribe.
What can I do with my downloads?
Do I have to use a credit card?
Not all sites or programs are secure enough to trust with your credit-card number. Try to find a service that will let you buy gift cards. This is also a great way to budget your cash so that you don’t spend more than you can afford.
Another advantage to the gift cards is that other people can buy them for you. Whether you are a teenager or a grandparent, you can appreciate receiving gift cards for music downloads on your birthday or other holiday.
But even if you cannot find a good "no card required" service that you actually like, you can use a pre-paid debit card. They aren’t linked to your bank account, so you have a bit of additional security right there. You can also use the pre-paid cards to help you control the download budget.
What are the system requirements?
Your computer should exceed the minimum system requirements. Otherwise, the site or program will be frustratingly, agonizingly slow – if it works at all.
Does the software come with spyware or adware?
There are plenty of music services that don’t require you to deal with the obnoxious add-ons. If you find a service that wants to give you a healthy dose of spyware with your downloads, move on.
Are the song files compatible with my MP3 player?
Most download services offer regular-format Mp3s. There’s nothing special or weird about the song files: you can play them in almost any MP3 player on the market.
However: other services use different formats. You will have to either convert the files or buy the MP3 players that are made by the same company that offers the downloads. Either way, you should know what you are getting into before you subscribe.
If you decide to sign up for free trials, you might want to use a pre-paid debit card. Should you like the service, you can load more cash on the card as you deplete your balance. But if you want to switch to some other download provider, you won’t have to worry about remembering to cancel your "real" credit or debit card before you are billed.
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