I entered the world of legally-downloaded digital music a couple of weeks ago. I admit, I have downloaded some music illegally — from Napster several years ago, just some songs that I liked from bands that I didn't want a whole album of. In a few cases, I ended up buying the album anyway, and in the cases where I didn't, I generally don't listen to those songs anymore anyway. I have also downloaded some music from various torrent sites - mainly for guitar practice. Being in the software industry, I'm not a big fan of pirating stuff, so I feel kind of dirty (and not just a little bit hypocritical) doing it.
To ease my guilty conscience, I have been looking for a place to buy digital music that (a) had a good selection of stuff (lots of sites have independent stuff, but I wanted big labels as well), (b) the ability to purchase single songs, not just entire albums, and (c) no restrictions on the downloaded files. Most of the sites I've found so far (like iTunes) have restrictions on the files — you can only listen to the songs so many times or for such-and-such a time limit, or you can only download the files to a particular device (or small set of devices), or stuff like that. I want the ability to make CDs, copy MP3s around anywhere I want, stuff like that. My guitar teacher told me about puretracks.com, so I checked it out. It has all three of the criteria I listed above, plus the prices are good, and best of all, the site is Canadian. The only minor caveat is that the files you download are compressed WMA files, not MP3, so they can only be played with Windows Media Player. However, the license you get allows you to burn CDs, and Media Player can do that. So, I downloaded a few albums, and for each one, burned a CD, then fired up my MP3 ripper and ripped the CD to MP3s, so now I have the unrestricted MP3 files that I wanted. I have no intention of illegally distributing these files, I just want to be able to copy them between my computers, use them on my MP3 player in the car, and on the MP3 player I bought for Gail for her birthday (which she has yet to open, 2 months later). It's annoying to have to burn a CD and then rip it (and then erase it, so I can use it again for the next album), rather than just convert from WMA to MP3 directly. The MP3 ripper I have (CDex) has that ability, but can't seem to handle these WMA files (possibly because they're licensed), so until I figure out how to do the conversion, I'll have to go through this extra step. Annoying and time-consuming, but not that big a deal.
The first things I downloaded were the song "River Below" by Billy Talent, and the first album from Godsmack. I had heard good things about Godsmack, but I didn't know any of their stuff. I did read in the Wikipedia entry on them that they are often compared to Alice In Chains (and are, in fact, named after an Alice in Chains song), and I like Alice in Chains, so I figured what the hell. It only took about three Godsmack songs before I decided I should probably just go ahead and buy the other three Godsmack albums too. I asked my friend Steve, who's into lots of really heavy stuff, and he said that all the Godsmack albums are really good. A week after my first download, I downloaded the entire Billy Talent album, as well as the third (Faceless) and fourth (IV) Godsmack albums — for some reason, the second one (Awake) is only available on physical CD. I haven't gotten to the IV album yet, but from the first two, I'm not hearing much of a similarity to Alice in Chains. So far, it seems more like Metallica's James Hetfield singing with Stone Temple Pilots. A couple of songs even sound kind of like Creed, though I have thought in the past that Creed sounded like STP anyway. I like the Billy Talent stuff as well — the guitarist has an interesting style, though the singer is a little screechy sometimes.
Maybe I should go all out and ease my guilty mind by going through the songs that I downloaded illegally and either (a) erasing them, or (b) buying them through puretracks. Of course, if I do that, then I'd have to go and actually buy the first season of Family Guy too...