In today’s era of streaming music, we can listen to any artist with just a tap of a finger. Platforms like Spotify or YouTube make that a reality, but they aren’t catering to music creators – DJs and producers who need to download and use music creatively. 

This is where online marketplaces like Bandcamp or iTunes come into play. They are examples of sustainable marketplaces that allow you to own an audio file outright rather than using it under license. In this article, we’ll walk you through our favorite platforms to buy music online, and why it’s important to do so sustainably.

Bandcamp 

Bandcamp is an independent platform advocating for independent artists. They genuinely care about the well-being of artists, and nurture the larger “music ecosystem” they belong to. What’s more, Bandcamp Daily is one of the best places to discover new music, and their weekly “Bandcamp Fridays” has become a well-known event where they waive their revenue share on any sales/downloads to really spotlight and support the creativity on their platform. 

Once you've paid for a track, you can download it as many times as you want. CDs and vinyl albums can also be purchased in physical form too (though shipping costs can sometimes be limiting.)

Available formats for digital downloads, including MP3, FLAC, ALAC, AAC, OGG, WAV, and AIFF.

Maximum bit rate: 320Kbps, Lossless

iTunes

The OG marketplace for music and it’s still going strong today. 

iTunes has one of the biggest, and most comprehensive catalogs so it’s a great place to find classics and older records. On iTunes, most singles are $0.99, while popular songs are frequently $1.29. An album's default price is $9.99.

Since the release of macOS Catalina, the iTunes Store has been a feature of the Apple Music app. Although the old iTunes app is no longer available, you may still access your iTunes library and download MP3s through the new app. 

Maximum bit rate: 256Kbps (AAC)

Beatport 

The home of niche electronic scenes. 

Beatport is one of the top music retailers for all things electronic music. They have a very carefully curated selection of underground, electronic genres. They’re also considered one of the more affordable DSPs out there.  

The ease of finding new music is one of the store's best features. For newbies to EDM, the sheer amount of DJs, producers, and remixes might be difficult to navigate, but Beatport educes the entry hurdle by having its Top 100 charts, DJ charts, countless genre categories, and even an adjacent editorial blog. They also do “Beatport Exclusives” which means artists can exclusively sell on Beatport in return for 5% more in royalties across their entire catalog, not just their new releases. Singles and albums are available; most singles cost $1.29 or $1.99, while albums cost around $10.

Maximum bit rate: 320Kbps, Lossless

Boomkat 

Boomkat Limited has been in the game for a while. As a specialist and independent online record store trading since 1998,  they sell vinyl as well as MP3s. 

Their catalog is constantly updated and on the pulse, but they do place an emphasis on independent electronic music and dance-adjacent genres. They also have a fantastic review section, which is often funny and very tongue-in-cheek. 

Available formats are MP3, FLAC, VINYL, and CD. MP3s start at £6.99 whereas the price for vinyl depends on the demand but the price ranges from £16.99-£18.99

Maximum bit rate: 320Kbps, Lossless

eMusic 

eMusic is the members club of music marketplaces. 

It is a subscription-based platform for music and audiobooks, and subscribers of eMusic can download a set number of MP3 music per month depending on their subscription tier. There are three tiers ranging from 9£-19£.  TriPlay owns eMusic, which was founded in 1998 and is located in New York City. 

While their catalog is smaller than some of the more popular websites listed here, the selection is nevertheless creative and they have a strong editorial platform bolstering their platform.

Maximum bit rate: 200 to 320Kbps

Juno

Another oldie, but a goodie! 

Founded in 1997, Juno is an established and popular dance music retailer, selling vinyl albums, CDs, and digital downloads. They are highly regarded as DJ and studio equipment retailers, with an extensive knowledge base and adjacent platform reviewing gear. 

For music downloads, prices vary depending on popularity and format. Generally, however, singles range from £0.80 to £2 and albums go up to 10£ approximately. Available formats include: WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIEFF

Maximum bit rate: 192 and 320 kbps

Finally, why is it so important to source music legally?

Our listening habits today are founded on the piracy boom of the late 90s. And we need to work together to undo some of the downsides that came out of that period. 

This was when peer-to-peer file-sharing websites like Limewire and Napster popularised the “MP3” format which set motion a series of events that completely disrupted the music industry. Listeners stopped buying CDs (which was the only way an artist could monetize their music at the time.) These bootleg websites had record labels were scrambling to rescue their record sales. 

Now, in comes iTunes. The first marketplace for music sales online, which was beautifully paired with the release of the first iPod. Music had never been so accessible, and the best part about this is that it democratized the music industry. What do we mean by this? Well, it means that it leveled the playing field; smaller artists could compete on this open platform called the internet (without needing a label to distribute their music.) This accessibility was never seen before, and it's only grown since the launch of Spotify or Apple Music. 

Now, the downside of all this is that it changed our society’s valuation (and appreciation) of music. 

Music was no longer this tangible item you purchased and added to your collection. While it still can be, that’s not how people consume music these days. Amidst all the mood playlists and mixes, it's become increasingly difficult to remember that behind every MP3 is a person trying to make a living from their art. The ease of downloading, and “ripping” music off Youtube, for instance, de-values music as a whole and normalizes the act of not paying for art. 

So with all this in mind, it’s more important than ever that the tastemakers of this industry – the DJs, radio stations, hosts –  that they source music legally. That means supporting the businesses that like Mixcloud, nurture our industry, rather than drain it.