The lowdown on music downloads

2014-06-01 15:00

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Is downloading music online really cheaper than buying a CD? Lynette Hundermark investigates

There are two types of online music services available. Here’s what you need to know about them and their impact on your budget:

1.?Buying music online

Buying music online is often punted as cheaper than buying CDs in-store, but the cost of the track or album does not include the data costs you incur when you download the music files.

The good news is that the cost might be included in your cellphone data bundle if you have one. In the case of BlackBerry devices, there are sometimes restrictions on how much content you can download, so check this with your service provider.

When you buy music online, you pay the actual listed price for the track – for example, R8.99 for Mafikizolo’s Khona on iTunes, and then you also pay data costs.

The file size of Khona is about 4MB. This can be free if you download over a wireless data connection (Wi-Fi) at a free Wi-Fi hot spot. However, to ensure that this service is not abused, some free Wi-Fi hot spots have restrictions.

For the majority of prepaid cellphone users, the download costs could potentially be up to R2.50 extra (one-off data bundle) or R8 (out-of-bundle rates).

This increases the cost of a single music track to as much as R17. So, if you download each of Mafikizolo’s 17 songs on Reunited individually, it will cost you R255.

The 50MB album in a single download will cost R89.99 and the data R30 to R100. Buying music without a data bundle is roughly double the price, so buying a physical CD is often still cheaper.

2.?Online music subscriptions

Although streaming music is the latest trend, due to improved internet speeds, it can be quite easy to forget the amount of data it uses. Brands such as Simfy Africa and Nokia offer you access to a catalogue of tracks for a fixed monthly subscription.

At R60 a month, Simfy will allow you to listen to music on your computer, tablet and your smartphone. You have to stream the music. This means listening to the music online without actually downloading it.

Streamed music files are highly compressed to minimise the amount of data required. However, there are still costs. Streaming music on your cellphone will use about 85MB of data an hour.

For BlackBerry users in particular, Simfy Africa warns that access to their services is not included in the BlackBerry Internet Service and you will be charged for data use. An hour’s worth of music will cost you about R41 (based on a one-off data bundle of 100MB for R49) or R170 an hour at out-of-bundle rates.

Most cellphone contracts seem to come with a standard 1G data plan, which will give you about 12 hours worth of listening time before you start incurring out-of-bundle rates.

So, the true cost of streaming music via an online music subscription is not a good financial choice if you do not have access to a Wi-Fi network.

What are the costs if you don’t have a Wi-Fi network connection?

Well, for example, streaming music during three one-hour gym sessions over your iPhone could potentially add an extra R510 a week to your already exorbitant cellphone bill.

• All costs calculated based on out-of-bundle rates at R2 a MB and Vodacom’s once-off prepaid bundles: 10MB – R8.99; 30MB – R25 and 100MB – R49.

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