The Best Sites for Legal MP3 Downloads

By Kara Benoit
There are plenty of places to download legal music files -- the hard part is choosing one!

In 2000, Shawn Fanning created what is arguably the most popular file-sharing service in history: Napster. The service provided an easy and free way for users to share MP3 files with others; however, the service’s legality came under scrutiny in 2001, and Napster’s reign came to an end. From this venture, though, the music-download business was born and today, several sites such as Rhapsody and Amazon provide legal avenues for downloading MP3s.

Application-based

Like the original Napster, many companies offer free applications for download, which are then accessible through your desktop. Some popular applications include Apple’s iTunes and Amazon MP3. These services do not require subscriptions to access music, but rather users pay on a per-download basis. ITunes provides collections from popular artists and music genres, music videos, podcast subscriptions, television shows and movies. ITunes also offers a free music download every week. Amazon MP3 requires a small application download; shop for MP3s through Amazon’s main shopping site and download music files or entire albums. Amazon MP3 also offers free music downloads and cheap albums on a consistent basis, and downloads play on any MP3 player device, such as a Zune, iPod and SanDisk Sansa. Both Amazon and iTunes have more than 10 million songs available.

Browser-based

If downloading a desktop application isn’t for you, check into browser-based MP3 download sites. MP3.com, Rhapsody and Napster are three popular and reliable sites for music downloads. Unlike iTunes and Amazon MP3, Rhapsody and Napster are subscription services. Napster offers three plans: an annual pass, a three-month and a one-month pass. Each pass comes with a number of MP3 credits, which limits the amount of music you can download each month, but listening to music online through Napster is unlimited. Passes start at $5 per month as of July 2010. Rhapsody, on the other hand, offers a monthly subscription service starting at $9.99 with unlimited music downloads each month as of July 2010.

Free Downloads

Download music videos and listen to full songs on one of many free sites like YouTube, MySpace Music or VEVO. Or, check out sites like Archive.org, a website dedicated to sharing public-domain music and free contemporary music. Download.com, the popular download site from CNET isn’t just for software; it also offers thousands of free MP3s for download, usually from new artists and bands. MP3.com’s free download section contains hundreds of tracks from both popular and little-known artists. Music from all sites are legal for download.

About the Author

Kara Benoit began her writing career in 2003. Her articles have appeared in "The Colorado Springs Gazette," and her writing focuses on running, fitness, exercise and health-related topics. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in media management and a Master of Arts in organizational communication from the University of Colorado.