Where to get the best deals (and the best music) on MP3s


Thrifty Tech: A weekly column about technology options on a college budget

On June 1, streaming music service Lala.com shut down. Lala was primarily known for two things. 1) They let users upload their entire music library into Lala's cloud, allowing people to stream their entire libraries at any computer. 2) Users could stream entire albums once for free on Lala's store. The company was purchased by Apple just last year, leaving people wondering what their plans were for the site and its technology. Is Apple going to put iTunes in the cloud? Are they going to allow for streamed albums? The rumor mill is certainly churning.

Various sources speculated that Apple would introduce their plans for Lala's technology at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) earlier this month. However, the event of course served as a soapbox for that new phone thing. So with Lala dead and gone, let's look at some non-iTunes options for downloading music legally and on the cheap.

And remember: If you're looking for consistent sources of free music, you can always check out our very own Free Downloads column, or you can listen to new releases for free over at Spinner.


In the past few months, Amazon has been a new contender in the MP3 download game. Notably, it's featured deals on $5 MP3 albums -- half the price of most albums on iTunes. It also have a sizable selection of new albums for $7.99. The site features music from major pop stars (Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga), buzzing indie artists (Yeasayer and She & Him) and classic rockers (Blondie and Van Halen).

It's also worth noting, however, that the Amazon MP3 store has been in the news lately. As our sister site Engadget reported, the United States Justice Department is taking a preliminary look into iTunes for anti-trust reasons. Specifically, they're interested in whether Apple's dominance in the music market gives them clout to talk record companies out of putting out deals on Amazon. Meanwhile, a $5 album is a $5 album, right?


The eMusic model is very interesting. For a fixed rate every month, much like on Netflix or GameFly, users get a "song budget." For $11.99, users can download 24 songs in a month, which totals out to 49 cents per song. However, the more you want to download, the less the tracks cost. For $30.99, you get 75 songs (41 cents per song). For $79.99, you get 200 songs (40 cents per song).

Another perk of eMusic is the upfront free downloads. Currently, you get 45 free downloads just for signing up -- that's four short albums. The downside to the once-a-month payment model? It's extremely easy to use up all of your song credits on day one and have to wait 30 days before you get anything else.

Other Music

After all the recent love poured out for mom 'n' pop record stores on Record Store Day, Other Music's digital store gives shoppers the at-home immediacy of MP3 purchasing and that fuzzy feeling you get when you support the local record store. Other Music is a "brick and mortar" record store based in New York City, but their online presence offers users a selection of indie releases to download.

Again, their prices compare to iTunes, with most albums priced at $9.99, but they focus solely on indie releases. Be sure to check their "Featured" section to see if they're offering any free downloads.

Amie Street

Like Other Music, Amie Street focuses primarily on indie releases. But Amie Street offers a lot more free downloads from indie bands such as Suckers, Clogs, We Are Scientists and The Casiokids. They have deals on albums for $5 and cheaper, and even if you've never heard of an artist before, they allow for users to stream large portions of a song (over a minute) for sampling.

And if that doesn't pique your interest, perhaps the 75 free downloads for joining will.

Evan Minsker's Thrifty Tech appears Tuesdays. Got a hot, cheap-tech tip, question or comment? Write to Evan via our email address,MoneyCollege@WalletPop.com.