This article covers the history of MP3 music downloading and offers some helpful tips on websites and programs you can use to find free MP3 music downloads.
Various websites and computer programs let you browse and download free MP3s. With CD prices in most retail stores ranging from $10 to $20 and online music sites selling downloads at around $1 per song, free MP3 sites have become popular as an alternative to purchasing music. Legal and ethical issues come into play, but there are some legitimate ways to access free music on the Internet.
Free MP3 music downloading effectively began in 1999 with the launch of Napster. The peer-to-peer file-sharing network was revolutionary. Users were allowed to swap MP3 music files online, obtaining songs and albums for free rather than purchasing music. Napster became the flagship of free music downloading. However, Napster was soon mired in legal problems.
Legal and Ethical Issues
Peer-to-peer file-sharing programs like Napster disregarded copyright laws and took away millions of dollars in potential profits from record companies and musicians. Illegal downloading meant fewer record sales and less revenue for artists and the companies representing them. Proponents of Napster and file sharing argued that record companies and bands did not need to be greedy about sharing music and defending copyrights. There was also the argument that unheard-of artists benefited from increased exposure. In Napster’s case, the arguments would not hold up in the courts. Napster was shut down and ordered to pay millions in restitution for violating copyright laws.
Filling the Void
Several websites and programs appeared to fill the avoid after the demise of Napster. Kazaa emerged as another file-sharing client, but viruses and spyware hidden in many downloads marred its reputation. Kazaa also would be shut down. These failures and complications led to the development of legal methods of downloading music online.
Legal Music Download Sites
Some websites allow you to download from a section of free MP3 music in addition to purchase songs from a larger catalog. The iTunes store is one a leading source of music on the web. You can find just about any artist in the iTunes catalog and pay a download fee per song or album. iTunes also offers a free download section where you can browse MP3 songs from popular as well as emerging artists. Amazon.com features a large catalog of songs for purchase and a limited selection of free MP3 music downloads. BuyMusic.com is another website with a free sample subdirectory featuring songs from undiscovered and breakthrough artists.
Despite the fall of Napster, peer-to-peer file sharing is not dead. The current program of choice is Limewire. For those who want free access to virtually any song by any artist, Limewire is the ultimate in free MP3 music downloads. Limewire lets users swap music files over the internet, allowing people from all over the world to share MP3s from their personal collections. Still, Limewire has its drawbacks. PC users often deal with virus problems. Downloading from unknown sources always poses a risk, and some music files may contain viruses that could harm your computer. Mac users do not have to worry about this because there are virtually no viruses written in coding for Mac computers. The legal and ethical debates of music copyrights also apply to Limewire. According to iSkySoft, the company has gone to battle with major record labels in the courts, maintaining that Limewire is only a piece of software and that the company cannot be held liable for how people use it. As of 2009, a final decision on the legality of Limewire has yet to be reached.
Should music be shared for free online or is downloading going to destroy the music industry? There are valid arguments on both sides of the debate. Many artists are adapting by making their albums available for free on their websites with the option of paying a small fee for download if fans feel compelled to contribute. Popular bands like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have done this with immense success. Myspace has also established a new way for music enthusiasts to listen to their favorite artists for free on the internet. No matter what the courts decide, it appears that free MP3 downloading is here to stay in one form or another.