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Steve Jobs to the rescue! Just when you thought that putting together a rational, legal music download system was hopeless due to the greed and stupidity of the record companies, along comes Steve Jobs with a cool new service that actually works.

Armed with his awesome iPods and great downloading software, the iTunes music store let users purchase songs for 99 cents and actually lets them keep the songs and use them! What a novel concept.

Since then, Apple now dominates the music business with a huge percentage of legal downloads. Other services have tried to compete, but the mighty iPod and iPhone makes it very difficult for others to have a real impact.

Of course, things may evolve some more in this space, as some high-profile artists like Radiohead are letting fans download their music for free. Others like Moby don't care much about getting paid, and many artists now realize that they can give away music and make money on tour. The game isn't over yet!

iTunes
The new kid on the block is now the dominant force in music downloads. The iPod has become a phenomenon, and that's fueling more downloads. The iPhone made iTunes even stronger. Pricing has changed a little, along with the terms of use, but the basic principle remains the same - for a small fee you can download a song and copy it as much as you like for personal use. The beauty of the iPod and other new MP3 players is that you can now carry your entire music collection (or most of it if you're a fanatic) with you wherever you go. This convenience is driving sales if the iPod, and thus introducing millions of users to the iTunes store.

Your Free Music Downloads
This new site is trying to change the online music world by offering free music downloads in an ad-supported model. This site is a Silicon Valley based start-up with over $1 million in venture capital funding with the goal of changing the online music distribution business. Over 6 million songs are available for free downloading, and the site is growing by 500 songs a day.

Napster
Napster was the poster child for illegal music downloads before it was shut down. Now it's back trying to compete in the legal downloads arena, though it's getting smoked by iTunes. They've come out with a new subscription service called "Napster to Go" which provides access to thousands of songs for a monthly subscription, though you don't actually purchase or own any particular song. We'll see if this new format catches on.

Rhapsody
The new music service from RealPlayer has the same subscription service as that described above for Napster, or you can purchase songs individually.

MP3.com
As you might expect, they have tons of MP3 downloads.

Emusic.com
Subscription-based site with wide selection.

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