Online music stores that don’t suck

I’ve been trying to go legit. Trying to stop all the illegal downloading and legally purchase my music and video. The first online media stores were primitive: overpriced, DRM’d, and with crap media quality. The illegal world was full of non-DRM’d high-quality media files for free. It’s hard to compete with free, especially when artists weren’t paid in either case.

Nevertheless, the industry has advanced to the point that the offerings of media sellers is comparable to what you can steal, and for me the guilt of downloading has finally got worse than the inconvenience of legally purchasing media. Here are a few online music worth shopping at. They are all completely DRM free and work in Canada. (Video stores don’t seem to be quite as advanced or prevalent, yet.)

This store was started by Warp Records and was designed by The Designer’s Republic (RIP). It is the premiere electronic music store on the Internet. The selection is not exactly limited as it is curated. You’re certain to be stumbling onto quality music instead of badly produced basement recordings from someone who isn’t very good, like me.

Prices used to be pretty high by North American standards but it’s now become quite reasonable at 10 bucks for a 320kbit MP3 album and 13 for a FLAC album. Yes, this is one of the few stores that sells lossless audio. For that reason alone it gets a gold star.

You can also purchase CDs and Vinyl from the same web store… provided you are willing to pay the brutal shipping costs from the UK.

Amiestreet has an interesting trick: crowdsourced pricing. When an album is first uploaded it’s available for free. After a few downloads it gets priced around a dollar, and then goes higher depending on the number of downloads and user recommendations it collects.

What this means is that if you are into niche stuff nobody else knows about then you can usually find it for cheap. We’re talking under three bucks an album. Also, if you know the next big thing before anyone else does you can download it for cheap, then recommend it to screw everyone after you. Oh, and you get bonus credit if you recommend an album before it becomes popular. It’s like a crazy speculative market of musical opinion. Yes, finally, there is accounting for taste.

Selection used to be very limited but now I can find everything from Animal Collective to Britney Spears on here. (Britney is region-locked to the USA. Oh dear!) Downloads are usually 256kbit MP3 minimum, but 320kbit MP3 is catching on, and FLAC will be supported “soon”.

Artists get 70% of all sales, and anyone can upload their crappy basement recordings. Because of the pricing model, crappy recordings stay at the bottom of the pile. Your lo-fi cassette taped opus could get popular and net you big monies… and if it doesn’t at least you’re not annoying other shoppers with it.

In conclusion, go legit. Pay for your damn art.