The best music download stores you don’t use

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Streaming music is a wonderful convenience, but you’ve probably heard songs that you just have to own for one reason or another. Buying them on iTunes or Google Play is cheap and easy, but there is a world of little music stores with some cool music that you should check out as well. We will take a look.

Title image made using photographic 1980 (Shutterstock).

Of course, there is a huge selection and great deals to be had at big names like iTunes and Google Play Music. However, just like when we discussed some underrated music streaming services, trying something new doesn’t have to replace something you already love. There is always room for more.

No matter where you buy your music, you can play it anywhere. Lots of small independent stores are worth exploring, if only because these are the only places where you will find great self-promoted artists and some seriously underrated music. You’ll probably be looking in department stores for your new and exciting finds first, but if you can’t find them there, you probably will on one of these sites.

You’ve probably been to Bandcamp before, even if you don’t remember. If you follow a musician on Twitter or Facebook, they probably have a Bandcamp site where you can listen to their music, purchase albums, and download tracks. The platform allows musicians to host albums and publish their songs for sale or free download, and for listeners to play entire tracks, make quick purchases track by track or download entire albums at that time.

Bandcamp is free for musicians and for fans. If you’re a fan of indie artists, video game soundtracks, and other self-proclaimed musicians, this is a great place to explore. The home page is a great place to start, with popular tracks and albums to explore, and you can browse by genre or new releases at the bottom of the page. While Bandcamp has a rep for indie tracks and video game tracks, make no mistake, there’s plenty of folk, jazz, metal, hip-hop, and experimental music available as well.

If you love electronic music, Beatport is for you. It’s packed with downloads, mixes and full sets from your favorite headliners or indie DJs looking to make a name for themselves. A quick glance at the graphics on the right side of the page will tell you what’s popular, but the catalog is comprehensive and rich. Beatport is also home to a number of exclusive albums and downloads that you won’t find anywhere else.

Don’t underestimate the Beatport community, either: the site boasts over 120,000 artists, remixers, DJs and musicians, and it has nearly a million tracks. There is also a huge user community behind the site, and there are even music leaderboards and awards hosted by the site to encourage users to get involved, vote for their picks, and explore new avenues.

CDBaby has been around for a long time. It has received a lot of praise from people who prefer high quality lossless formats because they offer all of their music as standard MP3s, 320kbps MP3s, or FLAC files. The site is home to large and small, independent and signed musicians. Many of them use CDBaby as a platform to then stream their music to other major stores, like iTunes and Google Play, but you can still get them directly from CDBaby and cut out the middleman.

CDBaby may be independent, but don’t think of it as a small service. They host more than 300,000 artists and three million songs available on the site. They host a Music Discovery Podcast to help you find new artists to enjoy, and have their own rankings for popular artists, new bands, and staff picks. Since the site is large, you can find almost any type of music on CDBaby, from jazz and funk to metal and punk and everything in between. The site also offers collections curated by featured artists, discount tracks and more.

Jamendo differs from a number of other music stores in that it is free and open to any musician who wishes to register. Anyone who does so agrees to release their music under a Creative Commons license, which means that in many cases it can be reused and remixed freely, as long as you provide attribution to the original artist. If you find a musician you like, you can donate to support the artist. This gives listeners the ability to download a lot of great music – usually for free – while the artist continues to market themselves and earn money on licensing and other commercial uses of their music through Creative Commons.

Jamendo is not a very large site compared to many others; they welcome more than 30,000 artists from 120 countries and offer more than 400,000 tracks to listen to and download. Jamendo also offers internet radio and there are even mobile apps. Listening, downloading, and streaming are all free, and the songs you get are MP3 or OGG files.

eMusic has been around for a long time. Although it is popular for its subscription service, it also offers great prices on high quality, DRM-free downloadable mp3s from a variety of artists. If you discover something you like, you can buy it anytime, with or without a subscription. The service offers 12 million tracks from independent and major labels, as well as songs available through other services, like CDBaby.

Since eMusic’s catalog relied heavily on independent musicians and labels in its early days, the site has a bit of a reputation for being well stocked with indie rock, metal, punk, acoustics, and alt-rock. It’s a well-deserved reputation, as there is certainly a huge selection of these genres. However, it also has deals with major labels, which means you should be able to find music from artists you know and love on the site as well, in many cases at very good prices.

Although it is not traditional music shop, SoundCloud is a huge music social network and a great place to find early releases, free downloads, full sets and remixes from new artists, DJs, and small groups. Many artists post their songs to SoundCloud for free just for fun, and others will usually point you to the best place to download and support them in the process. Streaming is completely free, and you can search, browse, and explore musicians and artists without ever getting bored of what you hear. It’s huge too, with over 20 million users and millions of original songs, remixes, podcasts, spoken word tracks and more, all available to listen to and download.

Of course, these are just a few small music stores and services with great music for sale in a variety of formats and genres just below the surface of the big boys. In some cases, shopping with the smaller names is about finding great new music from musicians who are making themselves known and who cannot afford to put their music on sale in department stores. In other cases, it’s about diving deep into specific genres and styles of music and a community of listeners who love them.

Beyond the above, and beyond streaming music services, there are plenty of other ways to grow your music library without spending a lot (or not) of money. The web is full of great music and music deals that always allow you to support the artists and musicians you love – you just need to know where to look.


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