Ask LH: What Are My Best Options For Buying Music Downloads In Australia?

Dear Lifehacker, As a person of the technology age, I find it hard to believe that digital music is an unknown to many Australians. The only options I’m aware of in Australia are iTunes and BigPond. I don’t use iTunes (nor do I want to), and Bigpond is. . . well, horrible. Here are some examples of why:

  • the albums are more expensive than a printed disc from JB HiFi (normal albums are between $12 and $46);
  • the singles are expensive at $2 each;
  • they don’t have some popular albums (e.g. Gotye’s ‘Like Drawing Blood’);
  • you have to install the BigPond Media Downloader just to obtain the tracks;
  • they are owned by an evil behemoth of an organisation and I don’t want to give them my money

Amazon MP3 looks perfect, but isn’t available in Australia. Searching the web for ‘digital music download stores’ returns nothing useful. Could you make some suggestions for your devoted Lifehacker readers?

Thanks, Out-Of-Tune

Picture by Michael Coghlan

Dear OOT,

The annoying reality of buying music online is that rights agreements which were created when music was entirely physical, meaning manufacturing records or CDs locally and shipping them through different labels in each country was a sensible strategy, remain in place even when digital distribution now accounts for the majority of sales. That means that options like Amazon MP3 and Google’s music services remain blocked, unless you want to do a lot of stuffing around to get a US account. It also means that the services that are available often have a different range to what you’d get overseas (an issue we’ve covered when outlining how to get a US iTunes account). So the situation is probably never going to be ideal, but there are options out there.

Before kicking off, I do have to take mild issue with a couple of your arguments against BigPond. I’ve discussed before how people complaining about the cost of music often fail to recognise that music got cheaper even before digital distribution came along, so I won’t revisit that other than to point out that I could pay the same range of prices in JB Hi-Fi . Also, $2 a track is actually cheaper than iTunes’ new release price.

But if you do want to buy music outside those two big corporate behemoths, there are some obvious other options, including both mainstream sites . I’m concentrating here on sites that sell music, rather than streaming:

Many of these sites offer music from outside the traditional “big label” market, and thus are happy to sell worldwide. I don’t claim anything like expertise across the full range of musical genres, so if readers want to recommend their own favourites in the comments, we are (ahem) all ears.


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