I’m going to answer my own question: it is, in fact, possible to find a simple, turn-up-and-buy MP3 store online – and I mean MP3 download, none of this streaming bollocks – though by God it took some work. My criteria were this: (a) must work on a Linux PC, so that’s Napster out; (b) must not have any DRM that means the files are fussy about what computers or players they are stored and used on, so that’s iTunes out; (c) must not demand any software download or monthly subscription, so that’s most things out; and (d) must be legal, and not in the Russian sense – I don’t like ripping artists off wholesale. Plus there must be a good level of choice and the ability to buy individual tracks, which are so obvious they don’t really count.
Where I ended up was 7digital.com, which fits the bill: if any helpful reader knows any reason for not using this outfit, I’d be glad to know before I use it any more. But I have a particular reason for wanting to find an online store now: I’m going to see Sons and Daughters on Tuesday, but haven’t got myself organised to buy the album in time to get to know it; a digital purchase became the only option. True, I could have bought it from HMV, but now that Fopp and Music Zone have gone their prices have crept up again, and thanks to the internet I now do not regard it as acceptable to spend a tenner on a new album.
I was a bit surprised to realise it, but this is the first time I’ve downloaded an album that I could have bought as a CD instead, and at no extra cost. I’m not sure if I’m going to start getting all my music electronically: for one thing, my broadband package isn’t quite optimised for downloading tons of MP3s, though it might be able to withstand it, I think. For another, I do like having the CDs lined up on the shelf, and am a bit sad not to see my first new album purchase of 2008 sitting with my other CDs. But I dare say I’ll get over it. Eventually I will start reviewing records on here again… maybe – I’ll have to have a good listen to the Sons and Daughters record first.