ITunes Alternatives

ITunes Alternatives

I recently went to see Linda Linda Linda at my local theater (you should see it too; it’s on video now) and left the film needing some music by Japan’s Blue Hearts. ITunes had a few options (though there were two entries for the band, making their music hard to find). And while I could see what other people who had bought the tracks had also purchased, there was nothing about the iTunes store that made me want to stay to find new music, nothing that led me to bands I hadn't heard before. Instead, I looked into some new sites that offer options iTunes doesn’t.

We7 intrigued me at first by offering 128Kb DRM-free downloads for the low, low price of free. The catch? An ad is attached to each song you download; you can download an ad-free version of the song four weeks after your initial selection, though, or simply pay for the track. It’s an interesting idea, and it’d be a good way to check out new artists, but right now, the selection leaves something to be desired; only about a dozen artists are available and the site seems to be catering to mainstream tastes by featuring the work of Hall & Oates and Dave Matthews.

DiscRevolt aims to give musicians a way to sell digital downloads at concerts. Bands sign up for an account, upload songs to the DiscRevolt site (the band chooses the bitrate of the songs they upload), and then custom design a card they can sell at shows. Each card has a code that allows you to download an artist’s songs from the DiscRevolt site. Additionally, the site plans to sell cards that aren’t artist specific, so you can purchase music from a variety of groups. Until DiscRevolt sells download credits on the site itself, however, it’s difficult to purchase songs.

Although I couldn’t purchase tracks from the site (you can stream samples of songs), the search feature kept me on the site for a while. You can even pinpoint band searches down to a particular zip code—hey Bittersweets, apparently we’re neighbors. Additionally, DiscRevolt’s song categories, such as shoegazer, psychobilly, and melodramatic popsong, were spot-on. Once the purchasing system is figured out, it’ll be a site I'll go to regularly.

My new favorite, though, has to be Songbird, which is a combination music player and web browser; it's still in beta, but a developer's preview can be downloaded. Built on the Firefox platform, Songbird can play music stored on your computer or directly from web pages, and since it’s not tied to any one music store, you get a much richer variety of music. When doing a search for the Drive-By Truckers, Songbird went out and found not just album tracks but demos and concert material that I wouldn’t have found on iTunes, eMusic, or the Zune store.

Via Songbird, I subscribed to a number of music blogs—nine bullets, largehearted boy, born by the river, and southernshelter to start—by subscribing, new music from each blog is downloaded to my music player each day. While Songbird doesn’t sell music, it’s easy to move from the site to the music store of your choice—and unlike iTunes, Songbird kept me clicking links, checking out new music blogs, and listening to artists I hadn’t heard before.


Artists on DiscRevolt can design custom artwork for their download cards.



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You can easily encode to AAC with dbpoweramp. It's not free, but is an excellent tool and very affordable ($24 I think).



I'm a musician who wants to upload his music to Tunecore to sell online. Tunecore says that they recommend compressing the music into 320 kbps AAC format for best sound quality. I don't really want to use ITunes because that supposedly includes QuickTime which I've already had on my PC and is really insidious as far as removing it. Is there anything else I can use to compress my music into 320 kbps AAC besides using Itunes? If so, does anyone know if that software has been made available on any of Maximum PC's monthly CD-ROMS and if not, has Itunes been made available on any of the CD-ROMS?



Has anyone ever heard of a music store where, one can order a CD? That WILL give you CD quality for the low price of about $10-$20.

Or, you can totally change over to high res as I have and only buy SACD/DVD-A discs. Those are more $$ though.



Why all this talk about Songbird and iTunes? Amarok and Magnatune for me (Brad Sucks is awesome!).



Rhapsody is a good deal if you mainly listen to music on your computer. It has a pretty large selection, and it's starting to get more indie bands and obscure stuff like video game soundtracks. You can download an unlimited number of songs (encrypted) to your computer for $10 a month or $100 a year, but you will have to pay about $.80 a track if you want to burn them on a CD. There is also a whole mobile device service that is really complicated, I don't use it. For that I just get my music from, uh, "other" sources.


Lars Rasmussen

Where is the information on DRM-free stores I should be purchasing from instead of iTunes?

The sites mentioned may be great for niche tracks, but how about popular new releases or audio books? Which sites have libraries that compare with the number of tracks available from the iTunes store?

I'm intrigued by what's been written about Songbird, but would like to find out more about sites that work with software for queuing multiple purchases in lossless formats like FLAC, or 192kbps VBR MP3s.

$1 per song seems unreasonable when you don't even get the track without DRM, but what other comparable choices are out there?



I will definitely have to check this out.



I have been looking to dump Windows Media Player for awhile now, and finally I have found a great substitute. I tried a few other programs, but they weren't satisfying to use. I couldn't use iTunes because my mp3 player is WMP-based. Songbird was a fantastic suggestion.



I too love Songbird. Its a well thought out application that blends the features of a browser and musicplayer. I look forward to the final version!

you piqued my interest with the other alternatives, soon as I get off of work I will head home and experiment with them. Thanks!




Glad to hear you like Songbird. I think DiscRevolt will take off, too. Check out Jesse Sykes when you go to the site. Good stuff.

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