Building Your Digital Music Collection

The previous two Tech Tips took a look at eight basic features of portable MP3 players worth considering before laying down some serious money on one of these devices. Once you have a nice new MP3 player with plenty of space for music, you need to fill it up! There are several ways to go about building your digital music collection, and we’ll take a look at a few ways to do so.

The first thing to address may be the term “MP3 player.” Many of these devices play MP3 files, in addition to a variety of other formats. Many of the files available for download are actually in a format other than MP3, but the term has been applied to cover this whole class of devices, whether it is 100% accurate or not.

Create Your Own

There are numerous software titles available that make creating MP3 files from CDs (or other sources) a simple process. Most involve minimal input from the user once they have configured their preferences, and will take the audio and convert it into the digital format of their choice. During the “ripping” process, most applications will query an online database, such as Gracenote (www.cddb.com), and take care of the file naming and ID tagging needed to make storing, sorting, and accessing the files a snap with most players.

Some of these applications may already be on your computer. Microsoft’s Windows Media Player (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/mp10/default.aspx) is one program that any Windows user already has that is more than ready for basic WMA and MP3 file creation. Just drop in your CD and click “Rip”. Many other titles may have come bundled with hardware included with your system. For example, many optical drives ship with a copy of Ahead’s Nero (http://ww2.nero.com/us/index.html) or a suite of software from Roxio (http://www.roxio.com/en/index.jhtml). Either will handle the DVD or CD burning they were intended for, but also have decent MP3 creation modules, as well.

There are a multitude of free, or at least free-to-try, MP3 encoding software titles, and a trip to your favorite search engine may provide a list longer than you care to investigate. Some names worth checking out include EZ CD-DA (Digital Audio) Extractor (http://www.poikosoft.com/), EZ MP3 Creator ([http://www.linasoft.com/ezmp3c.html]), and Virtuosa (http://www.virtuosa.com/index.php).

The great thing about digital audio files acquired this way is that they are yours to use on whatever device you choose. The same can not be said about files obtained from either of the next two methods to be discussed. The files obtained from legitimate download services are protected by DRM (Digital Rights Management), which restricts the use of the downloaded files to a limited number of computers and compatible portable devices, as well as protecting the songs from redistribution by the end user. The files are yours to use, but not as freely as you may want, and perhaps for only as long as you maintain your account with the download service.

Pay Per Download

There are two main types of legitimate online sources of digital music… those that charge you for each download, and those that require you to subscribe to a service on a monthly basis. They offer the same types of files, but take different approaches to suit your budget and music needs.

Apple’s iTunes (http://www.apple.com/itunes/) may be the best known source for individual file downloads, thanks in no small part to the incredible popularity of the iPod MP3 player. What some may not know is that iTunes is not just for iPod owners, or Macintosh computer owners for that matter, but any PC compatible system can access the 99 cent downloads for use on their computer or compatible portable player.

Many other outlets offer digital music files for download, and even some mainstream brick-and-mortar stores have found their way onto the scene. Just as they have done with retail sales, Wal-Mart (http://www.walmart.com/music_downloads/introToServices.do) has managed to undercut the competition with their 88 cent music downloads.

Subscribe to a Service

Everyone is familiar with Napster (http://www.napster.com/) as one of the pioneers of file sharing, but they are back with a legitimate approach to music downloads. Although they do offer a program where you can download individual songs for 99 cents each, they offer monthly subscriptions for $14.95. This monthly fee allows for unlimited downloads, and could be the ticket for someone looking to keep their play list fresh on a regular basis. One caveat to this otherwise good solution is that the number of MP3 players supported is currently very limited. Also, once your subscription lapses, so does the ability to “access” your music. Basically, you are renting the songs.

Other subscription-based services are available, such as the one from eMusic (http://www.emusic.com/) that charges a monthly fee, but restricts the number of downloads permitted every month.

Choosing between a service that charges for every download or one that charges a flat monthly fee will most likely be determined by the volume of downloads one intends. If you only want a handful of songs every few months, it may be worth it to pay per song. But, if you intend to amass the ultimate collection of music ever known to man, subscribing to a service on a monthly basis is obviously more practical.

Go Underground

Whether through first-hand experience, or from the massive media attention, most people are well aware of other file sharing resources available on the Internet that can be used for acquiring MP3 files. Although the files are free, and users may feel they are operating anonymously, it may not be a safe means of acquiring media.

There are the obvious legal implications, as the RIAA has prosecuted file sharers for copyright violation (http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article.php/3497246), but there are other issues, as well. The integrity of the files being downloaded is not guaranteed, and people may wait patiently for a song to download only to find it is of poor quality, incomplete, or even worse… carrying a virus or trojan.

So, there are other pools of digital music, but swim at your own risk!

Final Words

Filling your new MP3 player doesn’t have to cost anything except the time it takes to encode the songs from your favorite CDs. But, paying for a download service is a sure way to have the songs you want as they become available and at a fairly reasonable price. These aren’t your only options for acquiring digital music, but when taking other routes, proceed with caution.

How To Download Music Online – 2 Ways Explored

In today’s context, you have two choices when you wish to download music online. One way is to do it by downloading your music files from legal music sites. The other is to download music from online file sharing programs. We will take a look at what benefits you can gain from using a legal music download site compared to using a file sharing program to download music online. We will also be talking more about the advantages and disadvantages of each method. This article is meant to give you informational knowledge so that you may know where to satisfy your music download needs.

Legal Music Download Sites

Such sites offer you the benefit to download music online in piece meal. In other words, you only need to pay for what you download. Say you only like a song in the entire album, by all means just download that track and pay for it instead of paying for the whole album.

Nowadays, with so much competition going on, the quality of service at such music download sites is high. The music quality is top class and prices are diving fast. In fact, recently, some have come up with a subscription-based membership model. For a fee, you can either obtain a monthly, yearly or lifetime membership to download music online from these sites. The variety and genre of music offered is surprisingly huge as well. It is quite amazing to find millions of music MP3s available for download.

File Sharing Program Sites

Such sites are better known as free P2P or Peer to Peer programs. It is controversial to download music online from P2P sites. There are always two sides to a coin. While some argue that it is illegal to download music MP3s there, it is also arguable that some of these files do not carry any copyrights and therefore is legal for sharing. The music you download from these sites are free.

But these sites are without problems. Since they are free, there are many people who download music online from them. The download speeds can be slowed down when the load is heavy. At the same time, your computer may not be protected at all from attacks of malware such as adware, spyware and viruses that can damage your computer infrastructure.

So before you decide how and where you want to download your music files, weigh the options carefully. You would more likely go with the first option. Find out where you can download music online for dimes at my music blog.

How Do I Record And Create MP3s From Home?

There used to be no substitution for a good recording job done in a professional recording studio. Now with the rising popularity of digital PC recording and the low cost of recording software, many people are re-thinking the idea of home recording. Plus with the ease of MP3 distribution, and the many sites that offer free web hosting and the ability to upload and download free music, the difficulty of promoting and distributing your band’s MP3s has been made very easy. The questions at hand are, what do I need to begin recording at home, how do I turn my recordings into MP3s, and what do I do with said MP3s after I am done creating them?

Home recording on a PC requires just a couple of things; a computer, recording software (i.e. Pro Tools, Cakewalk, Cubase), and a digital soundcard. If you will be recording multiple tracks from multiple sources at the same time, you might want to invest in a mixer as well. (This is assuming that your sound card only has one audio input) This will allow you input more than one instrument/microphone to your computer at the same time. Install your recording software and sound card drivers. Plug your mixer into your sound card, plug your instruments into your mixer and you’re ready to begin recording. The recording process may be a little different depending on what software you are using, but most decent software comes with a good instruction manual which you can consult if you are having problems. After recording, you will want to mix all tracks down to a stereo audio .wav file.

Now that we have our recording done and our .wav file in hand, we’ll want to convert it to an MP3 file. If you will be burning your tracks to CD, you won’t need to convert it to an MP3 file. But for distribution for music downloads on the web, the smallest, best quality, most universally accepted format will be an MP3 file. You can take your .wav file and export it as an MP3 through whatever audio recording program you use. Most recording software offers that option, but keep in mind that you might need to mess with the output settings to get the best quality MP3 out of your program. Another option is to use a stand-alone .wav to MP3 converter. If you go to download.com and search for “.wav to .mp3 converter”, you will be presented with a good list of programs that do just that. I have had good results using both methods, so it’s really up to you.

Once you have your MP3 files, you can set-up your own website and offer free music downloads. Or you can go to one of the many sites that offer free web hosting for musicians, so that the musicians will have a place to offer downloadable music MP3s, music videos, and music lyrics. Sites like, DiskFaktory Jams and Section Z are both free and have other tools for musicians to access, like message board forums and internet radio stations. Once you have your recording done, the possibilities are endless!