Over the last few years I’ve purchased music online from a variety of sites. Aside from wanting files that sound good, a hard requirement is songs must be DRM-free. Yep, that mostly means the iTunes store is out.1
My favorite place to buy/download music is bleep.com. There are two reasons:
- very high quality, DRM-free tracks
- an awesome music preview system
When I say “very high quality”, I mean it. All albums encoded after January 2006 come as 320K MP3s (the highest quality level) and are encoded with LAME (the highest quality encoder). And if that ain’t enough quality for you, they often have new albums available (for a little more $€£) in lossless FLAC! Furthermore, I’ve probably bought about 10 albums from them and none have ever had any ripping audio artifacts (skips, pops, clicks, static, drop outs, etc.) — they’re clean as can be.
As if all that wasn’t enough, their website lets you listen to every part of every song before you buy! This is just awesome. Typically, sites only give you the first 30s, which isn’t very useful for long and intricate tracks. I’ve spent many hours listening to tracks on bleep.com looking for a new album to buy. It’s an awesome feature and has gotten me to buy more music from them. 🙂
The downside to bleep.com is also one of their strengths. Originally, they were started as store for Warp Records, a highly influential electronic music label. Since that inception the store has expanded to carry music from a huge list of labels, however the predominant flavor is still electronic music (IDM, breaks, dub, glitch, ambient, minimal, experimental, etc.). Thus, the downside is you aren’t going to find that metal, hip-hop, or jazz album you’ve been wanting, but the upside is if you are into interesting electronic music, you’ll poop your pants when you discover hard to find albums are only a few clicks away from playing on your stereo.
I did buy one DRM-free track via iTunes when iTunes-plus launched (as a vote of support), but I have yet to find any other iTunes-plus tracks I’m interested in. Seriously, every time I look for an album it’s only available wrapped in iTunes’ DRM. With the advent of amazonmp3.com, I’m probably going to stop checking the iTunes store at all. More on that later. ↩︎