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How to get iTunes at a discount

These simple tricks will help you find the least expensive version of the songs you want.

By MSN Money Partner Apr 1, 2011 7:24AM

This guest post comes from Len Penzo at Len Penzo dot Com.


I've written before about my insatiable addiction to iTunes. It's one of the biggest money leaks I have to deal with on a monthly basis.


Believe it or not, some months I'll spend upward of $100 on iTunes songs for my iPod, although I'm trying my level best to rein in that nasty little habit. In the meantime, I do my best to find iTunes bargains wherever I can. Let's face it, the cost and convenience of iTunes simply can't be beat.


In fact, I hope you don't think I'm being too crotchety when I say kids today don't realize how good they have it. It's true. Gone are the days when people had to run down to the local record store and pluck down $11.99 for a CD just to get one good song on an otherwise stinky album.


Now, for prices ranging between 69 cents and $1.29, you can buy songs a la carte using a laptop computer while sitting on your living room couch in your underwear. That's not to say that's what I do, but you get my drift. (Oh, alright, maybe I've done that once. Maybe.)

Do you overpay for your iTunes?

Here's a friendly tip for you: Savvy iTunes shoppers know that the iTunes Store often sells the exact same songs for different prices. To prove it, I did a little shopping to show you exactly what I mean.


For example, I found iTunes offering Gwen Stefani's single "The Sweet Escape" for both $1.29 and 99 cents. It's interesting to note that the only difference between the two songs is that the 99-cent version was pulled from the "clean version" album that doesn't come with a parental advisory. However, the two singles are identical.


Even so, the majority of Stefani's fans bought the more expensive version of "The Sweet Escape." Believe it or not, so many people inadvertently paid the extra 30 cents that they made it the fourth most popular song in her catalog. Meanwhile, the exact same tune offered for 99 cents languished at No. 45 -- very near the bottom in terms of the most-popular Stefani iTunes purchases.

In another example of iTunes offering the same songs for different prices, I looked at the catalog of Paul McCartney's "other" band, Wings. (For those of you under 35 who have no idea what I'm talking about, you can look him up on Wikipedia.)


Not one, but three different songs -- "Hi, Hi, Hi," "Junior's Farm," and "Let 'Em In" -- were offered at both $1.29 and 99 cents. Again, even though they were priced differently, the songs are the identical original studio recordings that were simply pulled from different albums. At least in this case, it appeared that none of the three songs were purchased by the majority of iTunes shoppers at the higher price.


A few more money-saving iTunes tips

Sort by song title -- not popularity. On iTunes, artist song catalogs are normally sorted from the most popular song to the least popular. The problem is, that method of sorting often results in a lot of people overlooking the same song at a cheaper price further down the list. Instead, make sure you sort the catalog by song title. That way all the songs are grouped together so you can easily compare prices. To do so, simply click on the bar above the songs where it says "Name."


Be sure to preview the songs before buying. Those 69-cent and 99-cent songs aren't always identical to the $1.29 versions. In the case of newer music, the cheaper versions may have edited, cleaner lyrics. Meanwhile, with older songs, you need to be on the lookout for re-recordings made by the original artists. More often than not they sound noticeably different from the song you remember hearing on the radio.

Always back up your purchases. Let me repeat that. Back. Up. Your. Purchases. If your computer ever crashes, you are at risk of losing all your iTunes purchases -- and in my case that would result in a significant financial loss. Thankfully, iTunes gives you the option to save your iTunes Store purchases to a blank CD for safekeeping. In the event of disaster, those discs will be the lifeline that allows you to automatically restore your iTunes library. Also, iTunes makes the whole process so convenient, there really is no excuse not to do it.


Speaking of convenience, I hate to admit this but the other day while I was sitting at my computer I noticed that Maroon 5's single "Misery" was missing from my iPod, so I bought it at iTunes -- even though I had their CD that featured that single in my CD player downstairs.


That's right. I was willing to pay $1.29 for a song I already owned because I was too lazy to get off my butt, march downstairs to grab the CD, and then take 10 seconds to transfer the tune to my iPod. Yes, I'm pitiful.


You know, on second thought, perhaps iTunes can be just a bit too convenient at times.


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