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What to Look for in a Music Download Site

downloading anything sometimes make people hesitant to try new music download sites

Since the mid-1990s, when the legal battles over digital music began, the topic of music downloads has been a touchy one. It's hard to know what's legal and what isn't, and the potential risks associated with downloading anything sometimes make people hesitant to try new music download sites.

The threat of viruses and spyware would be enough to make anyone suspicious. Add to that the fact that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is extremely aggressive against illegal downloads, and you have some compelling reasons to be nervous about downloading music.

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However, as long as you take precautions to protect yourself from malicious software and potential lawsuits, downloading music is the best way to get new songs for your computer or MP3 player. You can buy individual songs instead of entire albums, and you don't have to deal with having a house full of CD cases. Digital; music is definitely the wave of the future, so it pays to find out how to find safe and legal music downloads.

If you're looking for a site to download music from, make sure it's legal first. Some companies outside the US claim to be exempt from US music distribution laws and therefore have the right to offer music for download without having a license to do so. The legality of these sites is highly questionable. If you find yourself on a site that offers songs at what seems like an unusually low price, there's probably a good reason for it: you're doing it illegally.

There are five basic factors you should look for after legality: Price, Selection, Format, Digital Rights Management (DRM), and Extras. The first two, price and selection, are very similar across the major download sites. The infamous but reformed Napster offers about the same number of tracks as Apple's iTunes, and the price per track is 99 cents for both sites. However, Napster also offers an unlimited monthly plan that allows you to pay one price to download unlimited songs per month - something iTunes has yet to discover. Many enthusiasts argue that this makes Napster a better value.

Choice is something that is extremely important to many of us - more important even than price. If you want a particular album or want to learn about a new band, you don't want to find that your favorite music download site doesn't carry that artist. Of course, you should expect that to happen sometimes - but if you can't find your favorite music on a particular site, it's time to move on.

If you plan to use your music downloads on a portable music player, it's important to know what format your chosen site offers and whether it's compatible with your portable player. Some sites or services only offer a proprietary format that can only be used with their software. This is very limiting and can frustratingly make you use only one type of music device forever, because your entire music library is in that format.

DRM is an issue that most of the internet community divided. This is a way for music distributors to control what happens to the music that you download. If you want to download music and then use it to burn CDs, you will need to make sure that the DRM allowances for that particular music download site will let you burn CDs of downloaded tracks. Some sites allow a maximum number of times you can burn a song or playlist, some require additional payment, and some will not allow you to burn CDs from downloaded songs at all.

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Finally, the extras that you get with your music downloads might be enough to tip the scales one way or the other for you if you are deciding between two sites. Some music download services will include additional files with the download of albums - but not the malicious kind of additional files. These files are like the liner notes that come in CDs. This type of additional offering is great for those who don't want to miss out on the great cover art and notes that bands include with their CDs.

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