Friday, March 28, 2008

mp3Fiesta: an iTunes alternative

Music on the net involves a quagmire of issues: who gets paid, if any one. I myself prefer direct distribution from the artist and have been unsatisfied with the limitations of DRM (Digital Right's Management, the authorized computer function in iTunes and WMP) music, especially when I can't put music on devices like my PSP (see Music, Shock Rock and Gracenote for more). Lately, I have been downloading music from mp3fiesta, one of many legal download sites based in Russia. The major advantage of these sites is that they are cheap $0.10 a song or $0.99 an album, 1/10th the price of iTunes. I don't know how they can be so cheap and legal (the website explicitly states that they pay copyright fees), but the fact they are based in Russia probably has something to do with it. The reason that I never got into torrents and other free downloads is that I value art and the artist and want them to get their cut. If mp3fiesta can pay the artist and make a profit, it shows how little the artist gets from the record company. Anyway given that very few recording-artists offer direct downloads, I'm left with little choice for music.

Another advantage of mp3fiesta is that it offers music at much better bit rates (162 kbps and higher) than iTunes (128 kbps) and the rest (Napster, Amazon, and Wal-Mart). Bit rates for newer albums can be as high as 320 kbps, so I never feel the need to buy the CD anyway for better quality (something I often feel with 128 kbps). Also, downloading can be a good alternative to ripping your CD collection, since it's faster and less hassle (after re-purchasing your albums let them download at night) and way cheaper than using a ripping service. The catalogue is respectable, so you'll find much of mainstream music and less of the obscure. The process is simple: sign-up, pre-pay, and download. The pre-pay feature is common among sites of this type and helps them keep their price down, for some it's a pain, but I prefer it to a number of $0.99 charges on my credit card statement. The site is no where near as elaborate as iTunes, so it is a bit awkward to listen to a sample and download the tracks. Unlike, iTunes, which puts them directly into a playlist in no time, each song must be downloaded separately and then added to the iTunes or other player's catalogue.

Bulk downloading can be accomplished by using Firefox (simply the best browser) and the add-on DownThemAll!! (you click on the "Add to Firefox" link to install it). Then DownThemAll!! has to have a filter added to it to identify .mp3 files. Open the program, in Firefox under Tools, and click Preferences then Filters and Add New Filter. In the caption box type ".mp3" or something like it and in the extensions box type or paste (no quotes), "/\/[^\/\?]+\.mp3$/". Now you're ready to go to .mp3fiesta's download page (or that of any other music site). Open DownThemAll!! and click Start. The downloads will begin immediately. The program downloads files very fast by downloading a number of packets simultaneously and then reassembling them. DownloadHelper is another good program that can be added to Firefox in the same way and requires little modification. Although this program identifies media files quickly and downloads them, it opens the download window after each download or batch download, which interrupts your web-surfing. Nevertheless, you can disable the Downloads window in Tools/Options/Main or minimize it. I have installed both to ensure seamless downloads and both work well for video downloading as well.

Then you can put the downloaded songs into files by artist and album, if you like, before adding the files/folders to iTunes. If you're not using iTunes you have to do this most of the time anyway. The best thing about the site is that albums are so cheap that you won't feel bad if you don't like it. Lastly, ensure you backup your purchases because you can only download them for 48 hours (to keep traffic down on their servers). Have fun!

Calabash Music, which I've already mentioned in Music, is a great source for world music, including North American folk music. The best thing about this site is that they offer ten free songs a week! They have a good catalogue and a strong mandate for supporting the artist through promotion and granting a fair-share to the artist. There is also a lot of good information on the site about world music, since it is also the operator of the National Geographic world music site. The service works like mp3fiesta (pre-pay and download page), but is more expensive, $0.99 a track. The one disadvantage is that DownThemAll, which works flawlessly elsewhere does not work so well here. DownloadHelper also misses tracks but has more success, damn pop-up window. Expand your musical horizons by using Calabash.


StereoBalls said...

MP3Fiesta is not available now since processing companies do not accept payment towards them - thus you can't refill your balance at the service and eventually can't download mp3.
I have found a similar site with great prices called Soundike. Check it. Also you may read more about MP3 downloading sites at my Squidoo lense to find the best mp3fiesta alternative

D. said...

Thanks for the info and links. Your site looks good. I have read about similar problems at Songboom regarding other Russian sites such as MP3Sparks. I'll probably switch if the problem persists after I run down my balance. Cheers

Tim said...

stereo balls is wrong

just used it and works excellently



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