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The Informed Shopper

Cox Buying Guides: Buying and Listening to Music Online

Music online

Few forms of media have been as greatly affected by the Internet revolution as music. Today, millions of music lovers worldwide find and listen to their favorite songs online quickly, economically and legally thanks to countless music download and streaming services doing business on the Web.  

The music devotee can enjoy a song or a CD’s worth of material after a few simple clicks and, in some cases, a small payment. You can download music on the device of your choice – from an MP3 player to a cellphone or smartphone, to a laptop or a desktop.

If you’re interested in checking out and buying music online, here is an overview we put together to help you get started.

Buying Music Online

One of the great things about music download providers is the millions of titles they make available. Apple’s iTunes Store ranks at number one right now with more than 13 million songs, followed closely by Napster, which offers approximately 12 million titles. Whether you’re a fan of Top 40 or “old school” Hip Hop, keen on British metal bands or swoon to the sounds of the Big Band era, you’re almost sure to find what you’re looking for from the top download providers.

Even with millions of titles on file, these providers make searching their catalogues easy, allowing you to find what you’re looking for by artist, song title, album or genre. Most, if not all of them, also allow you to sample all or part of a song to help you confirm it’s the one you want.

The cost for a single song is usually a bargain, with prices ranging from 70 cents to just over a dollar, and albums going for $9 on average. Some music providers, like Napster, offer a subscription service, allowing you to download an almost unlimited number of titles after paying a set fee, charged either monthly or annually. This is an excellent option if you’re someone who buys a lot of music. 

Keep in mind, though, that most subscriptions have certain specifications included in the agreements. These can include cutting access to music you downloaded from the provider if you decide to cancel your subscription. Before “signing on the dotted line,” make sure to read the subscription agreement carefully to ensure it’s the right fit for your music buying needs.

The music provided by major services like Amazon, iTunes and Napster is of high quality and is easily transferable to computers and MP3 players. The download service is designed to be user friendly, so even if it’s your first time buying music online, you should have few difficulties downloading your purchase. If you do, though, a top-shelf music service can provide help either through a comprehensive list of FAQs or service support staff you can contact online or by phone.

If you think you’re ready to start searching and buying music online, here is a list of some of the more popular and prominent music download services.

  • iTunes Music Store – 13 million+ songs
  • Napster – 12 million + songs
  • Amazon MP3 – 11 million + songs
  • Rhapsody – 9 million + songs
  • eMusic   – 6 million + songs


Listening to Music Online

Music lovers still love to buy and build collections, but more and more people are now streaming music on their computers and smartphones. Undoubtedly, both convenience and catalogue have played a large part in the growing popularity of streaming music. All you have to do is search for a music streaming site online, and soon you’ll have access to millions of song titles at your fingertips.

Even better, it’s mostly free. Granted, there will probably be restrictions on how much music you can stream, commercials may pop up in between songs and, in some cases, you may not be able to access the provider’s site with a smartphone – at least not until you decide to buy a package or subscription.

Another great streaming option is the hundreds to thousands of radio stations you can easily access online for free. These sites provide listeners a wide range of music as well as news, interviews, commentaries and anything else your favorite radio stations have to offer. You can connect to online radio via your computer or laptop and on your smartphone, usually through an app. As mentioned earlier, most online radio sites provide the majority of their content for free, but some radio sites may offer what they call an upgrade or a premium service for which there may be a fee.

Here is a list of some of the more popular and interesting music and radio streaming sites, ranked in random order.

  • Grooveshark – 22 + million songs
  • Pandora – 700,000 + songs
  • Slacker Radio – 2.4 + millions songs
  • – 7 + million songs
  • Rdio – 7 + million songs
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