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Digital Music Downloading - The Pros and Cons

Updated on June 25, 2013

There are more searches on the internet today for music than ever before. With the music industries acceptance of internet media as a distribution medium, it is now more important than ever to find legal online sources for music. Gone is the day of shopping at your local record store or using peer to peer networks as the RIAA has changed all of that.  Even though digital music downloads are becoming more and more popular, record labels still produce CD versions of their artists’ albums. Buying the actual CD does not, fortunately, prevent you from enjoying the digital version: you can rip the album to your computer, and then transfer the files to your MP3 player.  However, you might want to save yourself some time and effort by simply buying the music online and moving the songs directly to your player. Downloading has its pros and cons, though, so think about these things before you decide which version of that album you’re going to buy.

The Pros

Purchasing full albums online is usually cheaper than buying the CD versions. In many cases, you pay ten dollars to download the album.

Downloads don’t require you to leave your house. If you have a computer and an Internet connection, you can buy songs from your computer room. Downloading saves both time and fuel, which can be huge advantages depending on your time and budget needs.

Services frequently increase the number of albums and tracks that they offer. Many sites add new releases as they become available, while working on extending the catalog of older albums. Not many brick-and-mortar record stores can offer the selection that a popular download site boasts.

You save time by not having to convert the tracks on your CDs to player-friendly formats. If you pick the right download service, you don’t have to convert anything: just buy, download, and transfer to enjoy your new music.

Some download services offer exclusive tracks. iTunes is well-known for offering songs that you can get only through their store. This is a great way to experience more music by your favorite artists.

CD singles are not very popular – but you can buy many songs on a track-by-track basis if you go online. If you really want just one or two songs from an artist’s album, you can usually buy just those tracks online.

The Cons

You do not control the audio quality. If you rip a CD, you can set the format and bit rate to increase or decrease the audio quality. Downloaded song files are rarely, if ever, truly equal to CD quality. If you’re a hardcore music lover, you might not appreciate the lesser quality.

There is no physical, printed artwork available. You can get digital images of album covers, but you don’t have liner notes. People who enjoy poring over those notes while they listen to a new album miss out on that part of the experience.

Not all download services are compatible with every music player. If you, for example, want to download an iTunes Exclusive track, you must either have an iPod or find a way to convert the file to work with your MP3 player.

Also: Some music players do not recognize every “unlocked” format. A few players handle only MP3s, which is frustrating if you buy WMA files.

Some download sites will not let you re-download the files that you bought if you lose them. If your computer eats your hard drive, and you can’t recover those files, you’ll have to purchase them again.

Downloaded files do not have resale value. If you download an album, enjoy it for a few months, then grow bored with it, you don’t have the option of selling the music.

Music Downloading is Here to Stay

Music downloading is here to stay – but CDs will not go away tomorrow, or even the day after that. For the foreseeable future, music lovers will continue to have a choice between the two formats. Now that you’ve given the pros and cons of the digital revolution some thought, you should be able to make an informed decision about which option is best for you.


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