Ignore the pirates and download music legally

The digital soundscape has changed, making it easy to buy tracks on the internet. Chiara Cavaglieri reports

Reports of the death of the UK music industry have been exaggerated. Just last week, for the first time in five years, the music industry – a valuable export for UK PLC – returned to profit. And the news revealed by the the BPI, the industry body, follows hot on the heels the passing of the Digital Economy Act

With the Government getting tough on pirate digital music and one in five internet users admitting to online piracy, according to a survey from price comparison website Moneysupermarket, what are the best and cheapest ways for fans to enjoy their favourite artists legally?

You need to identify what is a bona fide site. Fortunately, the recently launched Music Matters campaign has made this a painless task by creating a certification trustmark which features on legitimate music download websites. It also has a website, www.whymusicmatters.org, which lists all the partners featuring this logo so that consumers can easily identify where they can buy music that is legally available with the permission of rights holders.

"The idea is to educate consumers rather than come in with the heavy stick," says Niamh Byrne, creator of the Music Matters campaign.

Legal music sites typically fall into one of three categories. Firstly, there are standard "à la carte" download services from the likes of iTunes, Play.com, HMV and Amazon.

"Among the top vendors are Apple through its iTunes Store, and Amazon which sells audio downloads along with more traditional CDs. Both stores offer DRM-free (digital rights management, or anti-copying software) downloads at reasonable prices," says Richard Plant from Computerworld UK.

Secondly, there are subscription-based services from companies such as Sky Songs and Napster which charge a monthly fee for either an unlimited streaming service or a set number of downloads. Finally, there are online streaming sites, most of which are funded by advertising.

"Other popular services include 7digital, which offers paid and free downloads of music and audiobooks, and Spotify, which as well as streaming thousands of audio tracks directly from the internet allows users to buy, download and keep files," says Mr Plant.

How appropriate these different packages will be depends largely on usage. Sky Songs, for example, is great value for heavy downloaders, charging £4.99 per month for five track downloads and unlimited ad-free streaming. Comparable packages include eMusic, which charges a monthly fee of £9.99 for 24 downloads, £13.99 for 35 and £17.99 for 50, or Napster, which offers three packages ranging from £5 to £15 per month, for between five and 15 MP3s and unlimited streaming.

For people who want to download individual tracks, often the cheapest is Amazon, with prices between 29p and £1.09 for singles and £2.99 to £8.49 for an album.

Last week's number one single, "Once" by Diana Vickers, can be downloaded for 49p on Amazon, while We7 is the most expensive choice, charging a mammoth £1.26. However, if you were to download Usher's new album, Raymond V Raymond, 7digital would be the cheapest option at £5 and HMV the most expensive at £7.99.

However, price isn't the only factor to compare when picking the right package. Access to a big catalogue of music may be crucial to some users who may be disappointed with the selection offered by some. In terms of sheer numbers of tracks, iTunes comes out on top, with more than 11 million songs in its catalogue, one million more than its rival Amazon. For an all-encompassing service, 7digital, Sky Songs, Spotify and eMusic offer everything from artist biographies and music news to playlists and free sample tracks. Sky Songs will recommend downloads based on your listening habits.

While there is no doubt that the popularity of digital tracks will continue to grow, there are some pitfalls to watch out for. Firstly, consumers should be aware that downloading tracks and constantly streaming may affect their broadband speed and potentially their monthly bill.

"If you're a relatively high user or you're sharing your broadband connection with others, you need to make sure you have a high or unlimited download package," says Mike Wilson, broadband expert at Moneysupermarket.

Providers are coming round to the fact that the way we use technology is changing, but it's important for heavy downloaders to work out their average monthly usage and ensure that they have a package that caters for high usage. Many packages will offer unlimited downloads, albeit for a higher premium, but even these will have a fair usage policy.

Expert View

Niamh Byrne, Music Matters

There's a lot of confusion about what is legitimate and what isn't, so we've created a trademark for legal music services.

There are many ways to consume music and the digital landscape is constantly evolving. There could well be a plethora of new services offering different ways to access music which is why it's good to have a mark. For me it's a very simple way to help people identify which sites to use.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

    Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

    Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

    £18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

    Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

    £35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss