Despite the growth of music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, many people still prefer to buy (at least some of) their music.
Buying music online means you own it outright rather than using it under license. As such, tracks aren’t going to disappear from your library suddenly. Plus, there’s no danger of the parent company going out of business and taking your music collection with it.
If you want to buy music rather than stream music, here are the best places to buy music online.
When you buy a song or album online, there are two ways you can receive the content—either digitally (in the form of an MP3 file) or physically (as a CD or vinyl record). Amazon caters to both markets.
When you enter the listing of a song or album that’s available on Amazon, you will see a selection of purchase options. Depending on availability, you can choose to grab the MP3 or physical version. Buying MP3 music online is generally cheaper. However, if you buy the CD version, you will typically be granted a free copy of the MP3 version.
And remember, if you download the Amazon Music app, you can stream all of your digital music purchases from within it.
Apple iTunes Store was the original online music store, and it continues to thrive to this day, albeit in a slightly re-imagined format. Most singles on iTunes cost $0.99, though popular songs are usually $1.29; the default price of an album is $9.99.
Buying music on the iTunes store depends on your operating system.
- If you have an iPhone or iPad (iOS), the iTunes Store can be downloaded as an app from the App store.
- If you use a Mac computer (macOS), the old stand-alone iTunes Store app no longer exists. However, you can still use your iTunes collection and access the store through the Apple Music app.
- For Windows users, iTunes can still be downloaded as normal, and you can make music purchases within the app.
Regardless of the app, the upshot is the same—you can buy a digital version of a song and download it onto your device.
Beatport is the best online music store for fans of electronic dance music (EDM). You can buy music as singles or albums; most singles cost $1.29 or $1.99, while albums run to about $10.
One of the store’s best features is the ease with which you can find new tracks. EDM is notoriously hard to navigate for newcomers—the sheer number of DJs, producers, and remixes make it hard to discover fresh music you’ll love. However, with Top 100 charts, DJ charts, endless genre categories, and even an accompanying blog, Beatport lowers the entry barrier considerably.
7digital is arguably the king of high-resolution music downloads. The company has been around since 2004.
Most songs are available in three formats: 320kbps MP3 (standard quality), 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC (CD quality), and 24-bit/96kHz FLAC (high-res quality).
Unless you’re an audiophile with an expensive speaker setup, the high-res version is probably an unnecessary expense. It’s easy to spot which formats are available for which tracks/albums, thanks to the tags on the album artwork thumbnails.
The number of songs/albums available for purchase on 7digital is in the millions. As such, you can be confident you will find the music you want, even if it falls into a niche genre. All the latest hits from the world’s biggest music stars are also available.
The other big name in the high-resolution audio world is HDtracks. It directly competes with 7digital.
There are both pros and cons when compared with its rival. On the upside, HDtracks has a greater number of audio formats available. The highest quality tracks (24bit/192kHz) are a significant step up on the best high-res tracks on 7digital, though most of the music available in the highest-quality format falls into the classical music genre.
On the downside, the site is more geared towards albums. If you prefer buying singles, you might have better luck with 7digital.
Make sure you also check out the various “Top” lists. They are divided by genre and let you explore the most popular music on the site for a given area.
Be sure to check out the best streaming services for audiophiles if you love hi-res music.
Musicians have spent much of the last decade criticizing services like Spotify for their payment models. At $0.006 to $0.0084 per play, artists and bands need to rack up hundreds of thousands of listens before they make money. Understanding how Spotify makes money can be confusing, which is why buying a physical CD or vinyl feels like a more direct way to support your favorite artist.
Bandcamp, which is an independent platform, offers a more band-friendly model. Musicians can make their own stores on the site and sell their songs directly to fans.
As a buyer, you can download a track as many times as you want once you’ve paid for it. Physical CDs and vinyl records are also available (though shipping costs can sometimes be prohibitive).
Multiple formats are available for digital downloads, including MP3, FLAC, ALAC, AAC, OGG, WAV, and AIFF. Can’t decide what format to select? You can read our guide to the most common audio formats and which one you should choose.
If you’re a traditionalist who prefers owning CDs over digital music, check out CD Universe. The site is fairly basic, but it has one of the most in-depth collections of CDs and vinyl records available online. At the last count, there were more than 800,000 titles.
We also like that CD Universe accepts payments via PayPal, which sets it apart from Amazon, the other big physical CD seller on our list. The cost of a CD is slightly higher on CD Universe, however.
Walmart might not be the first name that pops into your head when you think about music, but the grocery giant has long offered CDs and vinyl records in its stores and online.
The collection of titles isn’t as deep nor as niche as Amazon and the like, but if you’re looking to pick up the latest music from today’s stars, you’ll find the albums readily available at competitive prices.
And remember, Walmart offers a pickup service. You can get the music you want in a physical form without waiting for a delivery driver or needing to set foot inside a store.
Bleep offers digital sales in the form of mp3, FLAC, and WAV, with the addition of CDs, vinyl, and even cassettes to buy. Founded in 2004, Bleep has aimed to support independent artists and labels. So for all indie-music lovers, this is a fantastic store to buy music.
What makes this site different from the rest is a dedicated merchandise section, which means fans of an artist can buy clothing, prints, and posters, as well as candles and mugs. There are also plenty of exclusive artist releases, which means you can buy things like limited edition vinyl that aren’t available anywhere else.
On top of all this, you can preview entire songs and whole albums before buying, which is not always a feature available on other sites.
Buying Music vs. Streaming Music
Everyone has their preferences when it comes to where to buy or stream music online, and we’re not going to say that one approach is better than another. Whether you prefer the ease of streaming music on Spotify or find satisfaction in the legal ownership of buying music outright, there are still plenty of options regarding the best places to buy music.
Remember, you can download your most-loved albums on Spotify for offline listening. However, you cannot export them outside the Spotify ecosystem. On the other hand, buying music means you get to keep it for life, whether in mp3 format, CD, or vinyl.
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