How can I download music legally?

Some of the most popular music streaming services are subscription-based. These services offer access to millions of songs for a monthly fee. The main subscription services include:

  • Spotify – With over 82 million songs, Spotify is one of the largest music catalogs. Spotify has a free ad-supported tier, and premium subscriptions start at $9.99 per month. Spotify is known for its advanced algorithms for personalized recommendations and playlists.
  • Apple Music – Apple Music has over 90 million songs and costs $9.99/month after a free trial. It offers deep integration with other Apple devices and services. Exclusive content like new album releases are sometimes available earlier on Apple Music.
  • YouTube Music – YouTube Music leverages YouTube’s massive catalog of songs, covers, and remixes. The service costs $9.99/month after a free trial. It includes official songs, albums, playlists and artist radio stations.

The main advantages of subscription services are their vast catalogs, curated playlists, and ability to save music offline. The main downsides are the monthly cost and lack of full ownership of the music. However, subscriptions can be an affordable way to listen to nearly any song on-demand and discover new artists.

Purchasing Downloads

The most straightforward way to legally obtain digital music is by purchasing downloads from online stores like iTunes, Amazon Music, and Google Play. These stores allow you to buy individual songs or full albums and download them to own forever. According to Statista, over 50% of global music industry revenue now comes from digital channels.

Downloads are typically priced at $0.99 per song or $9.99 for a full album. Some stores like Bandcamp allow artists to set their own pricing. Downloaded files are offered in formats like MP3, AAC, FLAC, etc. at varying bitrates – the higher the bitrate, the better the audio quality.

The main advantage of purchasing downloads over streaming is that you own the music files indefinitely and can listen offline. Streaming services in comparison grant access to songs rather than ownership, and require an internet connection.

Free Streaming Services

Many popular music streaming platforms like Pandora and Spotify offer free, ad-supported tiers that allow you to listen to music online without paying. These free versions provide unlimited on-demand streaming, but come with some limitations compared to paid subscriptions.

For example, with the free version of Spotify you can listen to any song, playlist, or album on demand, but you are limited to shuffle mode for playlists. Also, the free tier plays advertisements periodically between songs. Some users may find the frequency of ads disruptive to their listening experience.

Additionally, free listeners have restricted access to premium features like extreme sound quality options, offline listening for when internet connectivity is limited, on-demand playback without shuffle requirements, as well as exclusive releases and customized playlists.

Downloading from Official Artist Channels

Many artists allow free downloads on their official sites (1). This is a great way for fans to legally get music from their favorite musicians. By offering free song downloads, artists can promote their work and gain new listeners. According to Jamendo Music’s website, “Discover and explore 600000+ free songs from 40000+ independent artists from all around the world.” (2)

As an avid music fan, browsing your favorite musician’s official website can unlock exclusive free downloads. Often these are songs not available on major platforms, live versions, unreleased demos, remixes, or special promotional tracks. Downloading directly from the musicians themselves supports independent artists and gives fans unique content straight from the source.

Just remember to only download free tracks that the artists have explicitly provided for fans. Pay attention to any terms of use on their site. Enjoy discovering new free music while supporting hard working independent musicians!

Downloading from YouTube to MP3 Sites

While downloading copyrighted content without permission is technically illegal, many internet users visit sites that convert and download YouTube videos as MP3 files. Sites like YTMP3 allow users to enter a YouTube URL and download the audio track converted to an MP3 format.

The appeal of these YouTube ripping sites is the ability to access your favorite YouTube music offline and build a digital music library. According to this article, many prefer having downloads they can listen to anytime without needing an internet connection.

However, there are quality and ethical concerns around YouTube ripping sites to consider. The downloaded audio can suffer in quality compared to an official high-bitrate audio file. Downloading via unauthorized sites also takes ad revenue away from creators and essentially steals copyrighted content.

While convenient, downloading from YouTube ripping sites perpetuates intellectual property theft and subverts music industry norms. There are legal alternatives that better compensate artists while still allowing you to access audio offline.

P2P Sites

Peer-to-peer (P2P) sites allow users to share files directly with others without going through a central server. This decentralization makes it difficult to control or monitor content. Unfortunately, these networks have become associated with illegally sharing copyrighted material like music, movies, books, and software.

According to university resources, using P2P networks to download or distribute copyrighted files without permission violates rights holders’ intellectual property and copyright protections. You can be sued. There are ethical implications as well since the artist or creator is not compensated for their work.

Some better options that properly license music include subscription streaming sites or making direct purchases from artists themselves when available. These appropriately support creators while giving consumers legal methods to enjoy media.

Promotional Downloads

Many digital music stores and record labels offer promotional or discounted song downloads as a way to introduce listeners to new artists and albums. For example, the iTunes store frequently offers free song downloads each week from various genres and record labels. Amazon Music also provides discounted music downloads through their Daily Music Deals. These free and discounted promotional downloads give listeners a risk-free way to discover and sample new music.

Independent record labels will often offer limited-time free downloads of certain songs or albums as a promotional tool. Following artists or labels that you like on social media can alert you when they release new music for free download for a short time. Music streaming services like Spotify also provide customized playlists and recommendations to expose listeners to new artists, which you can add to your library if you like them.

Taking advantage of promotional music downloads allows you to legally download new songs to sample and potentially discover your next favorite artist. Just be aware that while promotional downloads are free initially, they may only be available for a limited time before reverting to a paid download.

Creating Your Own Digital Music Library

Building a legal digital music collection typically involves a combination of streaming, purchasing, and downloading from authorized sources. Here are some tips:

  • Use streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube Music to listen on-demand without needing to buy songs.
  • Purchase and download individual songs or albums from stores like Amazon Music, iTunes, and 7digital. Purchased downloads allow you to listen offline and own the music files forever.
  • Download free music offered legally by artists on sites like SoundCloud or Bandcamp. Many artists allow free downloads to promote their music.
  • Use CD ripping software to create digital copies of physical CDs you already own. This allows you to listen on more devices while retaining ownership.

Combining streaming, purchases, free downloads, and rips creates a robust personal music library with full ownership rights.


There are many great options for downloading music legally these days. Premium subscription services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music allow you to download songs to listen offline and access vast libraries of music. Many artists also make portions of their catalogs available to download for free on their official channels or through special promotions.

Whatever method you choose to get your music, it’s important to consider supporting the artists you love. Streaming provides artists revenue, but purchasing downloads directly and merchandising are other great ways fans can contribute. As streaming becomes the dominant format for music consumption, we must find ways to ensure artists are fairly compensated for their creative work.

The streaming-first future offers both accessibility and challenges when it comes to collecting and owning music. While purchasing downloads provides the reliability of building your owned library, subscription services offer flexibility to discover a world of music at your fingertips. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but the key is finding legal methods that align with your ethics and budget.

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