At the moment I’m aware of two methods for legally downloading and listening to music. A subscription based service where you pay a monthly fee and can listen to as much music you like, if you stop subscribing then you can no longer listen to anything you have previously downloaded. A fee for each track or album you download, which once downloaded is yours forever.
Lets be clear about one thing DRM is a feature demanded by music publisher’s before they would let companies like iTunes and Napster distribute music over the web. The voices of millions of consumers were not clamouring ‘we want DRM’.
I want to consume music in a fashion that offers me the most convenience, not the music publishers. That means I want to chose the format Mp3, WMA, AAC, Ogg, the quality / file size and I want 100% accurate metadata.. Once I have paid my fee to download, I want to own that track and I want to be able listen to it on any digital music player I chose to buy. Why should I be offered this service? I am prepared to pay for it. Until this service is a available I will buy the CD from sites like Play247.com and rip the tracks to MP3 using Cdex which does a reasonable job of looking up the Artist, Album and Track Names most of the time.
My big problem with paying to download music that has DRM is that I’m doing the right thing by not downloading pirated music and coughing up cash, I’m doing the honest thing but the music publishers are saying ‘we still don’t trust you you might give this to your friends’. There are some sites like MP3Tunes.com and www.magnatune.com that offer downloads without DRM but my impression is that they aren’t able to get access to artists signed by major labels.
There is an alternative to pay for download, download for free increasingly new un-signed artists are putting up there music on the web for download, the SXSW festival posted a 2 gigabyte bit torrent file that showcased most of the acts playing at SXSW. I have been working my way through the 755 tracks and what strikes me is that the talent and even the production quality on a lot of these tracks is as good as what you’ll hear on the radio.
EDIT: Russ Agrees and since writing this post I have discovere www.allofmp3.com a russian site that lets you download mp3′s without DRM, there are some legalities you will need to consider as using this site in certain countries may be illeagal.