Streaming music from a service like Spotify or Tidal is great, but it's not always convenient. You'll need a solid internet connection, and while you can download songs for offline play, once you stop paying the monthly fee, access to all of it disappears.
Buying digital music such as MP3s makes sense for a number of reasons. It's yours to keep and put on whatever device you want, and it better funds the artist and labels who can then keep making more music.
Whether you're looking to buy a music single or whole albums, here are the best sites to visit. We'll start with the biggies -- iTunes, Amazon and Google Play -- and move on to some of our favorites that you may not have heard of, like Bandcamp.
Yes, we cheated, iTunes doesn't sell MP3s. Instead, it sells its own AAC format, but these files can be read by almost every modern player. As the biggest digital music marketplace, iTunes still sets the standard for music downloads, and its catalog should furnish all but your most obscure needs.
Now with the support of many indie music labels, Bandcamp is perhaps the best alternative to iTunes or Amazon, particularly if your tastes run to the more esoteric. The site enables you to download in whichever format you like (MP3, FLAC, Apple Lossless) and seemingly as many times as you like, without paying extra.
If your tastes run to dance music with a sprinkling of indie, then you'll find a lot to love about Bleep. The site also has a good selection of 16-bit and 24-bit FLAC that aren't subject to the price hikes of some competitive vendors.
Bandcamp's main competition in the indie space, CD Baby offers musicians and music fans a place where they can buy and sell their music. Not as browse-friendly as Bandcamp (due to the lack of label involvement and "name" bands), but it's a boon to truly independent artists.
Murfie is a virtual music store that stores, sells and rips second-hand CDs, in addition to some new discs. As the last bastion before outright piracy, Murfie is a good way to find music that's unavailable elsewhere.
eMusic claims to have had the first legal MP3 album available on the web -- They Might Be Giants' "Long Tall Weekend." While eMusic's fortunes have ebbed and flowed, it's still holding on, and it now offers tracks from 49 cents each.
Annoyingly, if you go over your prepaid amount each month -- by as little as one penny -- you automatically pay for a $5 booster pack.