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The 10 best DRM-free music providers

The online stores that are cheap and DRM-free


Tired of the hassles with DRM-protected music? Check out this list of alternative online stores.

LiveDownloads

Sometimes a live version of a song is way better than the studio version. LiveDownloads recognises this and gives users the opportunity to listen to recordings from current and older live shows from artists such as the Smashing Pumpkins, The Black Crowes, and Broken Social Scene. Though geared more toward the 'jam band' genre fan base, LiveDownloads also offers some indie, metal, and jazz selections. They also carry a few studio albums. Single tracks are generally 65p each; albums and whole-show prices are determined by format and length.

One gem I found was a selection of jazz and Americana selections from the Savannah Music Festival. You can download full albums in MP3 or FLAC format; the latter is higher audio quality and therefore slightly more expensive.

Bleep

Specialising in electronic and indie music, Bleep offers top-flight LAME-codec MP3s. At 99p apiece, individual songs are priced a little higher than other sites we've listed, but whole albums are a reasonable £6.99. You can preview entire songs, rather than 30-second clips as on most sites. Bleep also has some cool exclusive content. One artist, for instance, included a comic book with his album that you can view on your device as you listen.

CD Baby

This online record store sells albums by independent musicians in both CD and MP3 format. You can browse CD Baby's collection by genre or mood (or both), or use its Discover Music search engine to find something new. I was in the mood to listen to something that matched the weather outside, so I typed in 'dark' and 'stormy'. CD Baby pulled up a couple of different albums with short descriptions and listed similar artists. MP3 and CD prices vary depending on artist and album length. It is important to note that you cannot buy individual MP3s on CD Baby; you can only buy entire albums.

LimeWire Store

The developers of the file-sharing client LimeWire launched a music store in May 2008. They're now up to almost 2 million tracks from a wide array of indie labels and continue to grow steadily. Users pay $1 (65p) per MP3 in a high-quality 256k format, or can choose from monthly subscription plans that reduce per-song cost dramatically. For example Platinum brings the cost down to $0.27 (17p) per track!

Eventually, LimeWire plans to integrate the store within its file-sharing software, so purchase links can appear alongside its search results. Unfortunately its currently only available to US residents.

  1. The online stores that are cheap and DRM-free
  2. Jamendo, Amie Street and Napster
  3. LiveDownloads, Bleep and CDBaby

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