Streaming music is great, but you’ve probably heard songs you need to own, or you’re an artist or band you’d like to support by buying their music. Doing it in big stores is cheap and easy, but there’s a world of smaller music stores with some great music you should check out as well. We’ll take a look.
Of course, there’s a massive selection and great deals to be had at big names like iTunes, Amazon MP3 and Google Play Music. These stores are great, and we’re not trying to convince you otherwise. However, just as when we discussed some underrated music streaming services to try, trying something new doesn’t have to replace something you already love. There is always room for more.
Remember: no matter where you buy your music— you can play it everywhere. Plenty of smaller independent shops are worth exploring, if only because they’re the only places you’ll find great self-proclaimed artists and very underrated music. You’ll probably look to department stores for your great new finds first, but if you can’t find them there, you’ll probably find them on one of these sites.
You’ve probably been to Bandcamp, even if you don’t remember. If you follow a musician on Twitter or Facebook who promotes themselves, they probably have a Bandcamp site where you can listen to their music, buy albums, and download tracks. The platform allows musicians to host albums and post their songs for sale or free download, and listeners to play entire tracks, make quick track-by-track purchases, or download entire albums in one go. one time.
Bandcamp is free for musicians and fans. If you’re a fan of indie artists, video game soundtracks, and other small bands, DJs, and other self-proclaimed artists, this is a great place to explore. The homepage is a good place to start, with popular tracks and albums to discover, and you can browse by genre or new releases at the bottom of the page. Even though Bandcamp has a rep for indie tracks and video game tracks, make no mistake: there’s plenty of folk, jazz, metal, hip-hop, experimental, and more.
If you like electronic music, Beatport is the place for you. It’s packed with downloads, mixes, and full sets from your favorite headliners or indie DJs looking to make a name for themselves. A quick glance at the graphics on the right side of the page will tell you what’s popular, but the catalog is deep and rich. Beatport is also home to a number of exclusive albums and downloads that you won’t find anywhere else.
Don’t underestimate Beatport’s community either: the site boasts over 120,000 artists, remixers, DJs and musicians, and nearly a million tracks. There is also a huge forum and user community behind the site, and there are even charts and music awards hosted by the site to encourage users to get involved, vote for their picks, and discover new new tracks.
CDBaby has been around for a long time. It has received a lot of praise from people who prefer high quality lossless formats because they offer all their music as standard mp3, or 320kpbs mp3 or FLAC files. The site is home to young and old, independent and signed musicians. Many of them use CDBaby as a platform to then syndicate their music to other major stores, like iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play (but you can always get them directly from CDBaby and cut out the middleman).
CDBaby may be independent, but don’t think of it as a small service. They host more than 300,000 artists and 3 million titles available on the site. They run a music discovery podcast to help you find new artists to enjoy, and have their own charts for popular artists, new bands, and staff picks. Because the site is vast, you can find almost every type of music on CDBaby, from jazz and funk to metal and punk and everything in between. The site also offers curated collections by featured artists, discounted tracks, and more.
eMusic has been launched for a long time. Although popular for its subscription service, it also offers great prices on high-quality, DRM-free downloadable mp3s from a variety of artists. If you discover something you like, you can buy it whenever you want, with or without a subscription. The service offers 12 million tracks from independent and major labels, as well as songs available through other services, such as CDBaby.
Since eMusic’s catalog relied heavily on independent musicians and labels in its early days, the site has a reputation for being well stocked with indie rock, metal, punk, acoustic, and alternative rock. It’s a well-deserved reputation, because there is certainly a great choice of these genres. However, it also has deals with major labels, which means you should also be able to find music from artists you know and love on the site, in many cases at very good prices.
Jamendo differs from a number of other music stores in that it’s free and open to any musician who wants to sign up. Anyone who does so agrees to release their music under a Creative Commons license, which means that in many cases it can be freely reused and remixed, as long as you provide attribution to the original artist. If you find a musician you like, you can donate to support the artist. This gives listeners the ability to download lots of great music, usually for free, while the artist is still exposed and making money on licensing and other commercial uses of their music through Creative Commons.
Jamendo is not a horribly large site compared to many others; they host over 30,000 artists from 120 countries and have over 400,000 tracks available to listen to and download. Jamendo also offers internet radio, and there are even mobile apps if you’re a fan and want to take your tunes or Jamendo streaming music with you. Listening, downloading and streaming are free, and the songs you get are mp3 or OGG files.
Although it is not traditional music the shop, SoundCloud is a huge music social network and a great place to find early releases, free downloads, full sets and remixes from new artists, DJs and small bands. Many artists post their songs to SoundCloud for free just for fun, and others usually tell you the best place to download them and support them in the process. Streaming is completely free and you can search, browse and explore musicians and artists and never tire of what you hear. It’s also huge, boasting over 20 million users and millions of original songs, remixes, podcasts, spoken word tracks, and more, all available to stream and download.
Of course, these are just a few small music stores and services offering great music for sale in a variety of formats and genres just below the surface of the big boys. In some cases, shopping with the smaller names is all about finding quality new music from self-promoted musicians who can’t afford to list their music in big box stores. In other cases, it’s about diving deep into specific genres and styles of music and a community of listeners who love them.
Beyond the above, and beyond streaming music services, there are plenty of other ways to boost your music library without spending much (or little) money. The web is full of great music and music deals that always let you support the artists and musicians you love – you just need to know where to look.
Title image created using photographic 1980 (Shutterstock).