With almost an 80% market share in the digital music industry, TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award winning iTunes Music Store has set the standard in digital media and has blazed the trail for many services that followed.
iTunes Music Store has more music titles and genres available than any other music service we've seen. The service also offers a strong feature set, including an integrated music player, in-depth information on artists and albums, music videos, audiobooks, movies, television shows and games.
Apple has recently negotiated a deal with the music studios to remove the digital rights management previously embedded in iTunes songs. Now all songs purchased from iTunes can be played on any MP3 player. Most songs are still $.99, but soon some will be available for $.69 and $1.29 as well. You can also upgrade your previously purchased songs at a nominal price.
iTunes and our other award winning music download services, #2 Napster and #3 AmazonMP3, have their pros, cons and various limitations. However, iTunes remains king of the music download realm.
iTunes Music Store offers a substantial music selection. With more than 8 million titles, they have the largest music download library on the internet.
While browsing through its 20 genre categories, plus various categories including collections, Celebrity lists, iTunes U, iTunes Latino and more, you can find almost any kind of music imaginable. Also, whenever you log into the service, iTunes updates you on all the latest music titles added to the store.
All tracks sold through the iTunes Music Store are 100% DRM-free. That means every song you purchase can be transferred to any number of iPods, computers, CDs or other MP3 device.
In order to search the iTunes store, you first have to download the iTunes music player application. The application is compatible with both Mac and Windows computers. It’s likely that if you have an iPod, you already have this application installed.
Once you have the corresponding software installed searching for music at iTunes Music Store is straightforward and simple. You can browse by genre, search using the keyword box, or use the power search which narrows by title or artist.
Or you can just use the search box and search by keyword. This is really handy if you aren’t 100% of a song’s title or artist.
To access the iTunes Store you have to download the iTunes media player/ manager. It is a free application that is compatible with Mac and PC. The iTunes songs are encoded using AAC format at a 256 bitrate.
Although all of iTunes songs are free of digital rights management the AAC format may not be compatible with all portable music players. However, once your song is downloaded from iTunes Store you can use the iTunes application to convert your AAC music to MP3 format for more device compatibility.
Since iTunes’ switch to DRM-free music is a relatively new feature Apple is giving users the opportunity to “upgrade” their previous downloads encrypted with FairPlay DRM to open unprotected AAC for $.30 per song. Although this is a pretty cool concept it still means you have to fork over more cash to have your purchased music stripped of DRM. For some this could be quiet expensive; however, iTunes is the only online music store even offering a special promotion like this.
iTunes has probably set the music download features standard. In addition to music the iTunes Store also includes movies, television, podcasts, audio books, apps and more. With all those choices, you’ll never get bored. Alas, you have to have an iPod to take advantage of most of these additional features.
Some unique features of the iTunes store include a “complete my album” feature. With this, you can upload a number of titles from one music album and iTunes will search for the rest of the songs on the album for you to purchase.
They also have a new feature called “My iTunes” that uses widgets and feeds to display information about your activity on iTunes including what you’ve been listening to, watching or reviewing. Those widgets can then be displayed on your blog, social network profile or personal website.
One of our favorite iTunes features are the Celebrity Playlists. Celebrities create playlists of their favorite songs by other artists. It’s like a sneak peek into a celebrity’s iPod. You can also purchase their playlists.
iTunes also has a profile page for most of the artists in the library that includes things like a biographies, top songs, concert tickets, videos, and more.
As previously mentioned you have to download the iTunes media manager application to access the iTunes Store. iTunes is very large, system intensive application that takes up quite a bit of system resources while running.
However, the software only recognizes Apple devices like iPod and iPhone. If you have a different brand of MP3 player you will need to manage your music in a different media player like Windows Media Player or Winamp and your songs will need to be transferred from the folder level.
Although this could seem like a cumbersome process, iTunes’ library selection just might be worth the extra effort.
Like most music download services, you have to create an account. Once your account is established you are free to start downloading. You don’t have to have an account if you are just browsing the iTunes Store.
iTunes is compatible with Mac and PC; however, it will only work with XP and Vista versions of Windows. Older operating systems are no supported. It is also recommended you have a high-speed internet connection. Downloading music from dial-up takes a very long time.
Once you get around to downloading a song, the process is really easy. The average cost for individual tracks is $.99 and entire albums usually cost about $9.99. Since iTunes has lifted its DRM some newer, more popular tracks will be more expensive and older tracks might be a bit cheaper, but $.99 is the most common price for single songs.
The help and support available for iTunes Music Store is among the best in the industry. We found their technical support to be excellent and their step-by-step tutorials helpful. iTunes Music Store does not offer FAQs directly in their application; you have to go to Apple.com.
iTunes is king, plain and simple. They offer the largest selection of digital music on the Internet and more features than any other service we reviewed. However, Napster and Amazon MP3 are quickly catching up. What makes iTunes great is its seamless integration with the most popular MP3 player on the market, iPod and its additional features like movies, games and apps.
Honestly, we don’t see iTunes going anywhere anytime soon.
For a fun and exciting way to put your music downloads to use, be sure and check out our DJ Software Review.