Digital Music and Lyrics

Category: Music

Remember the good old days of Napster & Cohorts, when you could illegally download your favorite music all day long, while thumbing your nose at the greedy record companies? Ahhh, the memories...

Digital Music 101

That party ended abruptly a few years ago when RIAA (the recording industry legal machine) sued the pants off Napster, and then started slapping hefty fines on individuals who were putting their CDs online for others to grab. And rightly so, in my opinion. Regardless of how greedy the record companies may be, no matter how arrogant and rich the performers of pop, it all boiled down to socially acceptable stealing.

But since digital music has reinvented itself in the past few years, it's now easy, legal and fairly inexpensive to download individual songs or whole CDs by your favorite artists. Digital music sources and software such as iTunes, the new Napster, Wal-Mart and others make it easy to find and download tunes from your favorite artists or discover new music from independents.


Since Apple's iTunes is the clear leader in the digital music services field, we'll start there. iTunes lets users select from a catalog of over two million songs from five major labels and hundreds of independent labels. That means you can find almost any song from a well-known artist, but it doesn't cover ALL music by a long shot. After you download the free iTunes software (Windows or Mac) you can listen to free 30-second clips or browse through the catalog of music, including pre-release, rare and out-of-print albums. Individual songs can be downloaded for 99 cents (US) and most albums can be purchased for under $10.

I have to say I am really impressed with the iTunes software. It's easy to use, and it has a bunch of "wow" features that make it so easy to manage your collection of music. In addition to downloading songs and making your own CDs, iTunes lets you "rip" individual songs from your existing CDs (with no sound quality loss) and create your own mixes. You can create a party mix and be your own DJ (playing songs stored on your hard drive), select tunes from your favorite artists and burn your own "best of" collections on CD, or load them to a portable music player like the iPod.

Printing jewel case inserts for your albums, with artist and song titles is a snap. Convert music files from one format to another. Keep track of your most frequently played songs, assign ratings to songs, or share a playlist with a friend. And iTunes Radio lets you tune into free online broadcasts, specializing in Oldies, Rock, Blues, Jazz, Country and other formats.

I want to emphasize that you can download the free iTunes software and use it to manage your music collection WITHOUT using the iTunes service -- no purchase is required from the iTunes music store.

Other Digital Music Outlets

Napster, formerly Public Enemy #1 of the recording industry, has been transformed into a legal music service that gives access to a large library of popular music. A Napster Membership for $9.95 per month gives you unlimited access to over a million songs on your PC. Napster Light is similar to iTunes -- 99 cents per song with no monthly membership fee. Search and browse 30-second music clips and buy your favorite music to burn to CD or transfer to a compatible MP3 player.

Two important Napster caveats: (1) You must maintain a Napster subscription in order to retain access to songs downloaded through a Napster Membership. So if you cancel your Membership, the music you downloaded from Napster goes poof. This does not apply to songs you purchase and download through Napster Light. (2) Napster is for Windows XP/2000 only.

Wal-Mart Music Downloads offers their own sizeable music catalog. All downloads are 88 cents, with no monthly fee. You must live in the USA to purchase, and songs must be played with Windows Media Player.

The venerable offers music hunters a rich resource to search for music by a specific artist. Once you find the album or song you want, you can listen to free clips and then click on the Availability button for links to digital music outlets that offer the item for sale. also has extensive reviews, discographies, biographies and links to the artist's website, fan sites, media interviews and sheet music.

Revved up like a deuce?

Okay, you got all those favorites from days gone by safely gathered into your music collection. Now what the heck is Springsteen (or Manfred Mann) saying after "Blinded by the light?" The answer is found at Kiss This Guy, a website devoted to misunderstood lyrics.

If you want a searchable database of song lyrics covering many different genres, try one of these sites:

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Most recent comments on "Digital Music and Lyrics"

Posted by:

R. Dan Park
07 Dec 2005

I know there's not room on the Tourbus for an endless list of legit music download sites; but just to let you know this is one passenger of yours who is affiliated with one of 'em, Outbound Music ( if you clck where it sez Radio, you'll discover that I host the Easy Listening channel there as the "DJ-on-air" known as Mister Dan. We welcome any and all to our growing site, which is dedicated to 'indie' (independent) singers and songwriters of many different types of music. -- R. D. ('Mister Dan') Park; Houston, TX

Posted by:

07 Dec 2005

I am worried about the security of some of those download sites. Are my personal data safe? Am I safe from viruses, spyware, etc.?

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a HUGE problem on the illegal download and file sharing sites. Viruses and spyware are often posing as music files. But no need to worry on the fee-based sites, since part of the service they provide is to ensure the files are clean.

Posted by:

07 Dec 2005

There are two other ways of getting music I know of. is nice and simple, and sells DRM-free MP3 files. The other, iRATE radio ( gets you to rate songs to decide what you like the best, and it gives you more stuff from it's collection based on what you like. All music that is legally and freely available on the internet.

Posted by:

07 Dec 2005

Is there a better, fail safe, way to download music with dial-up internet access? Too many times it's hit-or-miss with anything I might need to have for my computer and attempt to download. Trying to download something "fun" has been frustrating, I've never been able to enjoy, and avoid even trying anymore. By the way, I use NetZero and Do Not experience problems keeping my connection otherwise.

Posted by:

09 Dec 2005

Beware of the cheap Wal-Mart downloads in the "protected" .wma format. iTunes and iPOD CANNOT play them or recognize them. I got fooled by this after buying a few songs, which the Wal-Mart site states are usable with "portable MP3 players". It fails to mention iPOD is not included in this generic category. (iTunes clearly states this incompatibility in its Help files.)

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'd say your finger is pointing in the wrong direction! Blame APPLE for not supporting the widely accepted WMA format -- they are the ones who are not playing nice. Or download a free WMA to MP3 converter, and problem solved.

Posted by:

23 Dec 2005

You can burn a CD from the Wal-Mart downloads. Then you can rip the songs back into any format you want.

Posted by:

03 Jan 2006

On the napster download siste can you rip the songs to your computer make a CD and then reload them on your computer if you no longer have a "subscription?"

Posted by:

07 Oct 2006

A good, legal source (and available in Canada) is

You can buy whole albums or single tracks, and you can preview.

Posted by:

Peter O
17 Sep 2011

I have never found it easy to select & then listen to a full track - at no cost. is full of purchase options but allows only a 30 second evaluation.
Not nearly good enough IMHO.
I'd rather dwnld illegally it's so much more rewarding.
That does not mean I support the theft of copyright material, merely that I consider these "listen & pay sites" provide only a masquerade of service.

Posted by:

22 Apr 2013

I miss Napster allot but I found good mp3 music search engines like that do the work. :)

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Digital Music and Lyrics (Posted: 6 Dec 2005)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved