Seems to me paying a little over a dollar for a complete album is not possible when trying to account for artist royalties, overhead of the site, record co.'s cut, etc.
On the positive side I would imagine as far as prosecution of illegal downloaders is concerned this would not be the first place the authorities would go to prosecute individuals since there is some grey area.
I haven't used this service, but one nice thing about it is you can pick the compression rate for your mp3s, and they also have Ogg Vorbis files. I don't have any desire to pay money for lossy mp3 files, but they do sell flac files. I would pay .50 -.75 a piece for flac files. I won't pay more for digital files than actually purchasing the cd, unless it's something I can't find any where.
I've used it, before I discovered the questionable nature of their business. While I did run into some server issues occasionally (dropped connections primarily), the service was well run, affordable, and very convenient.
The one and only reason I used them is because they offer lossless downloads. I'm not interested in buying MP3s online, but if I can buy lossless (FLAC) music downloads, save myself a drive to the store to pick up a CD, and save the planet a few pounds of CO2 and trash in the process, then that's worthwhile to me. Unfortunately I know of no other online music service that sells lossless downloads. What a pity.
As a content provider whose work has been stolen by many of these sites, they are not legit and are in no way compensating the artists or anyone involved in actually producing the music. You may as well just fileshare and save your money. I would also question where your credit card info winds up...
This isn't Apple's fault. Apple is paying the costs for electronic distribution and retailing -- costs that in the CD world, the record companies and retail stores would normally bear.
The problem is the division of the royalties. Even though the record labels don't contribute a whole lot of value to iTunes sales, they still have control over the recording copyrights that they take away from the artists. I think that in many cases, they take advantage of this to set up the arrangement "the lion's share of the download sales revenue goes to the record label, & only some fraction of that goes to the recording artist".
But does anyone know the actual percent paid to the artist? (which I assume is different for artists of different labels). I've heard everything from 2% to 1/100th of 1% (For every $999 bought the artists gets whole $.99), but nobody can cite anything. Does anyone know anything concrete?
Never underestimate the hubris and greed of record companies:
"Under that old rubrik, the record company deducts fees for the kind of extra costs they used to incur when records were pressed on vinyl, including packaging charges, restocking costs and losses due to breakage."
which of course are now N/A.
I'd really like to see if those old contacts will hold up in a court today or if the judge will interpret them much differently than a Sony would.
Be aware that a FLAC item downloaded from that site may not actually be lossless... it could be a FLAC encoded version of an old mp3 file. Some albums are fine, others are not. Legality aside, it is definitely buyer beware on these bargin sites (if high quality is critical to you).