For most music educators the iTunes store is the most common choice for purchasing music for use in the classroom.  The glue that has kept most users attached to iTunes has partly been the seamless integration that the iPod has with the iTunes store.  But despite being the number one music retailer on the Internet, there is still one major problem with iTunes.
All of the music sold through iTunes is encrypted and copy protected with Digital Rights Management (DRM).  The vast majority of purchased through iTunes can only be played on computers that are authorized (users can authorize up to five computers per account).  At the same time the music can be loaded only onto an iPod (other MP3 players cannot read the iTunes DRM format). 

Alternatives to iTunes That Do Not Use Digital Rights Management (DRM)

There was a time when downloading music without DRM restrictions was an illegal process.  Today, iTunes stands as one of the few retailers that still sell tracks with DRM encryption, preventing users from truly using the tracks on any device they choose without the hassle of burning a CD then re-ripping the music into MP3 format.  Other retailers are breaking out of this anti-customer model and selling music at low prices but with the added benefit of being free of any copy protection.

Several web sites now provide low cost music track downloads that are bereft of any DRM encryption.  Sites such as Amazon Music, Yahoo Music, eMusic, and many others all provide music tracks for purchase at comparable prices that are not encrypted.  Many other sites are converting to DRM free models as well. 

What are the Benefits of Using DRM Free Music?

What does this lack of copy protection mean to the music educator? 
  • A teacher can load the music onto any player he or she chooses
  • There is no need to burn to CD in order to transfer and play the music on a computer without iTunes installed
  • The tracks are easily edited and modified using any audio editing software
  • No need to deal with authorizing a computer before it can play the music.
  • While it is not likely that iTunes will shut down any time soon, if Apple decided to shut down the authorization servers all of the music purchased through iTunes would become unplayable.

With the market changing as it is there is simply no reason not to consider moving to a DRM free music retailer such as Amazon.  Selection of tracks is comparable and ease of purchase is also quick and easy.  Plus all of the music purchased from DRM free music sites can also be loaded and played on an iPod just like any track purchased from iTunes.

Anyone that is just getting started with downloading music to a portable MP3 player or is just beginning to build a music collection should definitely consider avoiding iTunes and instead going for the flexibility and choice of DRM free music vendors.  Doing so makes listening to and enjoying purchased tracks much easier and much more practical for users that use music in the many varied ways that music educators do every day.

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