MP3 Downloads and Streams for a Song -- Savings Experiment

How to Save on Music Online
How to Save on Music Online

The last time I checked -- oh, about 20 seconds ago -- I have 1,981 songs stashed on iTunes in my MacBook Pro. Ah, the perks of being a former music critic; all the CDs I own fill five of those huge, 30-gallon Sterilite tubs in my basement.

But can a music-mad journalist and studio musician ever have enough melody packed into his smartphone? And can you, for that matter, afford to be without affordable music you can download at a moment's notice?

OK, so I can tell you all about the history of the MP3 file format. (Once upon a time, a German scientist named Karlheinz Brandenburg helped develop it for motion pictures in the 1990s). But do I know much about the best MP3 bargains out there? Well, you might say on that score, I'm the pocketbook equivalent of tone deaf.

That established, being a music junkie has its advantages -- mainly that I'm very, very motivated to learn all that I can about the ins and outs of music downloading on the cheap. Or, if you prefer, think of me as John Lennon singing, "Gimme money! That's what I want!" Hey, I sure as hell would like to... except you can't find The Beatles on any music download service. The legal ones, anyway.