How Does It All Work

What different types of legal digital music services are there?

There are several different types of legal digital music services available.

Download – Download services allow you to buy tracks, albums, videos, and other music content to keep via a computer, mobile phone or tablet connected to the Internet. Some services work directly with other devices too, such as a set-top box or a Sony PlayStation 3. Online legal digital music services include Apple iTunes, 7Digital, Amazon, HMV, Napster, Fairshare Music, Play and Tesco.

Mobile – Mobile services let you save and play tracks, albums, videos, ringtones and ringback tunes on your mobile phone. This category also includes mobile applications, or ‘apps’, which work in conjunction with complementary services on PC, giving you the best of both worlds. Mobile services are provided by most mobile service operators, such as 3, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone, and by some specialist companies like Jamba and Shazam.

Subscription – Subscription services allow you to stream or download a certain number of tracks per month in return for a monthly fee. Some services permit you to keep a certain number of songs each month. Subscription services include Spotify, eMusic, Deezer and Rara.

Ad‐Supported – Ad-supported services stream free music in return for carrying advertising. Examples include Spotify’s Open service, We7, and YouTube.

Cloud – Cloud music services allow you to store your music collection and access it no matter where you are on a wide variety of devices, including computers, MP3 players, smartphones, set-top boxes and video game consoles. iTunes, Google and Amazon all offer cloud storage facilities via their music service.

Social Media – Social media services allow you to recommend music and playlists to friends and family, sometimes offering you a financial reward for sharing content. Blackberry Music, Rara, Spotify and Last FM are just some of the services that allow you to share music.

What do I need to get started?

There are several ways to enjoy legal digital music services. To get started, all you generally need is an internet connection to a computer, console or handheld device. Once you’re connected and using a legal digital music service, you should also be able to take your music with you wherever you go on a portable media player, such as an iPod, an iPhone or a tablet .

How much will it all cost?

There are different components to consider when estimating how much legal digital music services will cost: a computer or other device, the cost of a broadband connection, a mobile phone or portable music player, and the cost of the actual music service.

The good news about legal digital music services is that you can try most of them pretty much for free, usually supported by advertising. Once you’re ready to buy, which removes the advertising, you can choose to buy individual tracks from 29p upwards and albums typically from £3.99. Alternatively, you might choose to take out a subscription from as little as £4.99 per month.

How do I find the music I want?

Finding the music you want is as straightforward as typing the name of an artist or song into the search box on a digital music service provider’s web site or application. Most services now offer most musicians’ and bands’ entire catalogues — everything they’ve ever recorded – so you will be pleasantly surprised at the massive choice on offer! Once you’ve chosen a song or album, you can preview short sections of it, buy or stream it. Some subscription or ad-supported services allow you to play the whole song straight away.

Can I listen to music on any mobile phone?

Not all mobile phones are enabled for playing digital music, although the vast majority of new phones now have this capability. You’ll need to check with your handset manufacturer, but if your current phone doesn’t allow you to play digital music, you can be sure that the next time you upgrade or change your handset there will be a suitable model that does.

Can I add my CDs to my library?

Yes — you can copy (or ‘rip’) the music off CDs you have bought using a service like iTunes. When you insert a CD into your computer, a message will appear automatically, asking if you want to “import” or add the music to your music collection. If you click “yes”, these albums and songs are automatically added to your music library along with the music you have bought from legal digital music services.

How is the music stored on my computer?

If you buy and download digital music legally, the tracks or albums you purchase are stored on your computer’s hard drive, just like any other digital file. Modern computer hard drives have plenty of space, so you will be able to store thousands of songs and hundreds of albums comfortably, as well as associated artwork and in some cases other visual and written content. You may also want to upload your collection to the cloud where it will be stored on servers connected through a digital network.

How do I transfer music from my computer to a portable media player?

In most cases, you connect your player — an iPod or similar — to your computer using a cable, and transfer the files using the software programme that comes with the player, like iTunes. Some of these programmes allow you to “synchronise” new music to your media player automatically every time you plug the device into the computer so you don’t have to do it manually each time.

If I have an iPod, can I buy music from all music services or is it only compatible with iTunes?

iPods can play various music types, from a variety of sources, although in some cases you may need to convert music files using the "Advanced" menu in iTunes before copying them to your iPod. Not all music formats will be compatible or capable of being converted, though, so you should check carefully before purchasing.

What is a playlist?

A playlist is a list of songs that a music service plays in sequence without the need to select individual tracks one by one. It’s like compiling your own album, or setting up your own personal radio station, featuring your own music. For many legal digital music services, this is as simple as dragging songs and albums from your collection into the list. Many services allow you to share playlists with other users of the same service.

How can I discover new music?

The other way of discovering new music is to take advantage of the recommendations that most legal digital music services make, based on your current listening and purchase choices. Following the recommendations is as easy as clicking on the automatic links or typing in the name of the artists or songs being recommended.

As with finding music you already know and love, tracking down new music you simply must have involves typing the name of an artist, album or song into the search box on a digital music service provider’s web site or application. For most artists, the entire catalogue is likely to be available, so there will be plenty of choice! Once you’ve chosen a song or album, you may be able to preview short sections of it, buy or stream it. Some subscription or ad-supported services allow you to play the whole song straight away.