The Disadvantages of Downloading Music

By Adrian Grahams

Downloading music doesn't always strike the right note.
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Even diehard music traditionalists who prefer to listen to their favorite tracks on CD or vintage vinyl may occasionally find the convenience of downloading music an irresistible draw. Instant access to a vast online library of millions of tracks from every conceivable musical genre appeals to many people, but the initial allure of digital downloads can soon disappear when you consider the disadvantages of downloading music from the Internet.


Downloading music from iTunes, Spotify or other official online digital music and media services is completely legal but some Internet sources aren't as legitimate. Downloading tracks from unofficial sites or via peer-to-peer filesharing networks is nearly always illegal and can land you with a hefty fine and a criminal record in most jurisdictions. A basic rule of thumb is that if you paid money for the track from an official retailer the music download is legitimate, whereas if you didn't pay for the item, downloading the music is probably illegal. Of course, there are exceptions because some new and indie bands distribute free tracks to raise their profiles. However, if the track is free and you doubt its provenance, don't take a risk and download the music because the potential for prosecution is probably the largest disadvantage of all.

Security and Viruses

Downloading any file from the Internet leaves your computer vulnerable to viruses, Trojans and malicious software that hackers can use to hijack your computer and steal your personal details. Even seemingly secure PCs armed with the latest antivirus and firewall technology can fall afoul of viruses and the risk of compromising your PC is a major disadvantage of downloading music or any other file type. Downloading music from official online retailers is far safer than with peer-to-peer networks, which hackers often use to distribute harmful viruses to as many computer victims as possible.

Audio Quality

Arguments about the audio quality of music downloads have raged since the practice began. Advancing technology offering improved audio compression techniques and higher bit rates has certainly improved the quality of digital music, but some audiophiles maintain that digital music files offer a sterile, less rewarding experience than listening to music on analog media like vinyl records or analog tape. The quality of digital music files can also vary, depending on the audio file format, compression technique and bit rate used when recording or digitizing the track. Original studio recordings are often captured in a high-fidelity 24-bit format, but before the track becomes a downloadable file it's usually downgraded to 16-bits and might further be compressed to reduce the file size and download time.


For many people owning a music collection isn't just about listening to the music. It's also about looking at the collection on a shelf -- or several shelves -- and physically browsing through the numerous CDs and vinyl records that make up the music library, beholding the album artwork and studying the various track lists. One of the disadvantages of downloading music is that some or all of your collection is reduced to abstract chunks of data floating in the cloud or sitting on the hard drive of your computer, tablet and portable media player.