What is an online music store?An online music store is defined as a service that provides downloadable content. This business model normally requires you to make a one-off payment in order to download a song or album. However, there are some services that work on a subscription basis too (like eMusic) which provide users with a set amount of downloads per month -- typically this gives you significant savings per song/album compared to a 'no strings attached' pay-to-download system. Online music stores enable you to physically own the songs and albums you purchase by allowing you to store audio files on your computer, MP3 / media player, tablet, or other type of mobile device without any DRM restrictions.
Probably one of the most well known examples of this type of music delivery model is the iTunes Store run by Apple,Inc. Using their a la carte system, you can buy a range of media content to download such as: songs, audiobooks, music videos, apps, and more.
Is there any difference between an online music store and a cloud music service?Online music stores are sometimes confused with other music delivery business models that stream content rather than provide files to download. The audio provided by cloud music services (which includes personal radio / Internet radio), is typically only temporarily stored on your computer / portable device for caching purposes. This means that you don't actually own the songs, albums, and other types of audio content you listen to unless you purchase and download it (if this facility is available with your selected service).
Advantages and disadvantages in using online music stores versus cloud music servicesAs with all types of services there are pros and cons in using either.
- Advantages: Probably one of the best advantages of using a pay-per-download service is that once you have downloaded your content, you are free to use it on multiple devices (providing there isn't any DRM copy protection). For many, music ownership is the more important factor when trying to decide whether to use an online music store or streaming service. Another advantage is that you don't have to rely on an Internet connection in order to listen as you would if using a service that streams content.
- Disadvantages: One of the main disadvantages of using an online music store is that you won't typically be able to listen to an unlimited amount of full-length tracks. The majority of online music stores normally only offer you part of a song to preview. This can vary, but is usually 30 seconds or so which can sometimes be too short when determining whether you should purchase a song or not. Storage space can also be an issue when you have a significant quantity of downloaded content. For a large library you will have to think about securely storing all your purchases in case disaster strikes -- typically users invest in external storage solutions such as hard drives, cloud space,etc.