An opinion on the subject is this: download a lot, discover new and older stuff, buy the CDs and see the shows of those artist you liked. MP3s are the one source for music discovery.
This article will not discuss CD ripping in detail, nor where or how to find quality MP3 albums, but it'll give you guidelines to be a grateful, conscientious MP3 user.
- Understand that MP3 is a great way to discover new artists and their music.
- Understand that no MP3 - bought or downloaded from obscure source can replace an original album. The artwork, photography, design, inserts, CD enhancements etc. are part of the experience the artist wanted to share with you.
- Understand that these artists often try to make a living out of their art. If you like this artist/group or that album very much then please support them (see their shows, buy their CDs and merchandise) they will be good to you by making more of that which you liked.
- Figure what style of music you prefer for a starting point. You'll get to explore from there I'm sure.
- When downloading music always try to get full albums, unless one track is good and the rest is utter crap, in that case you might very well be able to find a single release (see external links).
- Try to avoid P2P software (Kazaa, Limewire and such) for serious collecting and research. Quality is often inconsistent, making it hard to have a consistent album. Instead use torrent clients to download entire albums. uTorrent is a good choice, especially the stand alone version.
- Find a few good resources that serve your music likings (find some ftp or kdx servers, find torrent trackers, connect to channels over IRC, EFNet… and communicate with the 'locals' on the hows and wheres).
- You will find quite soon that many servers require that you contribute in order to download. If you rip your own CDs and intend to upload them, please read about how to make quality rips (see external links). People serve you good quality files, return the favor.
- Always be kind to admins and moderators. You will gain nothing from being rude. And always finish your uploads. We'll call this basic etiquette.
- At this point you will get quality MP3 to which you will listen and probably enjoy: step 1 is in action, that's also when step 2 should kick in.
- It's normal to have a lot more MP3s than CDs, you will not buy all of what you've listened to. But you are - again - obliged to buy those you really like and listen to on a regular basis.
- The circle is joined, you are a collector of MP3 who will soon turn out to also be a CD collector.
- To better support artists you enjoy, buy albums and merchandise directly from their website or shows. Built into the cost of a CD at a store is the retailer's profit.
- Opening your own server is interesting but since not everyone uses MP3 as well as you do now, authorities are forced to crack down on servers and administer severe punishment. Be aware that you are breaking laws when you host and distribute music.
- Note that .WMA, .AAC and .RAM and other proprietary formats are not to be shared, they're impractical to many other users.
Ugo Gagné, Nicole Willson, Jack H, Dave Crosby, Anonymous, Sondra C, Flickety, Will, KnowItSome, Travis Derouin