Bwog on a Budget returns this week with a guide to making the most of your money and music collection. Downloading music can be confusing, risky, and worst of all, costly, so read this guide and amend your ways! Please let us know if we have left anything off the list!

iTunes: The Exemplar

Pros: Like most Mac products, iTunes is incredibly easy to use.  If you buy into the whole Mac lifestyle — i.e. own a iPod, MacBook, MacBook Pro, or any other Mac computer — downloading music from iTunes’ exhaustive library into your personal library is as simple as clicking a button. Also iTunes makes organizing your music or iPod very easy.

Cons: $0.99 per song is about expensive a downloading can get. Also downloading an entire album as opposed to individual songs usually is no cheaper. Furthermore Bwog has yet to come across any iTunes discount subscriptions.

Ruckus: A Case of Extremes

Pros: There are two big ones: Ruckus is totes free and legit legal! Also Ruckus offers video streaming from Ruckus TV.

Cons: There are many. Ruckus is not compatible with Macs or iPods. Yup, Ruckus only works with Windows. Also Ruckus has DRM, which means there is limited player support and absolutely no copying your songs (unless you burn them onto a CD). And Bwog’s heard rumors that Ruckus’ storage and track system often is quite inconsistent.

Rhapsody: The Best of Both Worlds. Perhaps.

Pros: Rhapsody offers streaming on demand for just about its entire library. Also the site offers its Rhapsody Jukebox player feature which allows users to buy individual songs or buy into an a la carte subscription package. The three main plans are Rhapsody FREE (!), which allows customers to stream 25 songs per month for free, Rhapsody Unlimited, which gives customers an unlimited  selection of music from the Rhapsody music library for $12.99 a month, and Rhapsody To Go, which allows customers to download an unlimited amount of music and transfer to portable music playing devices.

Cons: Like Ruckus, Rhapsody is incompatible with iPods. Bwog has heard of a device called the Harmony Plug-in which can be used to transfer music from your Rhapsody Jukebox library to your iPod. Although Rhapsody Jukebox is best suited for PCs, Rhapsody web streaming does function with Macs. Also Rhapsody has DRM.

eMusic: An Acquired Taste

Pros: is almost as easy to use as iTunes. The site caters itself to Mac and iPod users and storing eMusic downloads in your iTunes library is a snich. Also eMusic offers numerous subscription packages that vary according to the number of songs you download per month. The eMusic Basic Monthly package includes 30 downloads at $.40 per song for a total price of  $11.99 per month. Other packages include 100 songs for a price of $24.99.

Cons:Although the site markets itself as the largest independent and alternative music retailer, eMusic has a paltry music catalog.  In theory eMusic’s focus on indie music is lovely, but in practice it’s pretty frustrating. Searching eMusic’s library for Wilco or some other ostensibly alternative band usually proves fruitless. Don’t even bother searching for Kayne.

Amazon: An Alternative to iTunes

Pros: Amazon is DRM free which means downloads from this site will play on just about anything! Amazon offers the Amazon MP3 Downloader (suitable for Macs and PCs) to download purchased music into your Windows Media Player or iTunes library.  

Cons: The MP3 downloader is a bit of a hassle. Also the Amazon music catalogue can be limited.  Song prices often rival iTunes’ $0.99 premium.

YouTube: The Dark Horse

Pros: This is the only site that offers free downloading for those highly coveted Youtube-only Sarah McLachlan remixes and other scarce resources.

Cons: Downloading from youtube makes storing music a more involved process that requires using the converter option. This results abnormally large MP3s.

The Music Industry’s Next Target

Pros: SeeqPod is absolutely free! Seeqpod is a relatively unique music search and discovery site that offers four entries: search, discover, popular playlists and popular artists. When you search for a song or artist, seeqpod quickly streams a MP3 version of your search entry to your computer. Also clicking on the four entries is a great way to find new music.

Cons: The legality of SeeqPod is questionable. Furthermore, SeeqPod’s services won’t work on an iPhone or iPod touch because streaming media isn’t in a format compatible with these devices.

BitTorrent: For Those who Want to Stick It to the Man

Pros: Savings and feelings of community spirit are guaranteed.

Cons: There is the infinitesimal chance of losing $3000 to the RIAA.

Bonus: and offer comparable services to SeeqPod. Although the sites are similar to SeeqPod, their interfaces are not nearly as good. Nonetheless you can download stuff!