I want to offer a full length album as a free digital download. I can easily throw the MP3 files up on a webserver and put a link to it. I've used this method before and it works ok. Savvy users know what to do with it:

  1. Right click each MP3 link and save them to your desktop or downloads folder
  2. Drag them all into iTunes and let it copy them into its database
  3. Delete the originals

My worry is that most users just click them, and their browser loads them and plays them. I want to streamline the user-interaction experience and optimize it for "download the whole album into my iTunes library." Posting the entire thing as a ZIP file is slightly better, but not by much.

Does anyone know of examples of other sites that have done this really well? Any other ideas or tips for how to package this? Disk Image? M3U file? Platform-specific scripting?


4 Answers 4


To force downloading instead of opening the file, add the following to your HTTP headers when downloading:

Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="track1.mp3"

And any well behaved browser won't try to open the file. That said, another option is to just throw them all into a ZIP file with no compression (as MP3s don't compress inside a ZIP anyway) and then they don't need to download all the invididual files. The time taken to unzip (which is why you use a ZIP with no compression, which makes this step much much faster) is going to be about equal to the time taken to download all the files, but with much less clicking involved.

  • Unzipping a 50 MB zip file doesn't take long, even on slower computers. And compressing will save some space, albeit only ~1 MB. Sep 8, 2010 at 10:34
  • For well-compressed MP3s/OGG files, you'd be lucky to get a 1MB reduction on a 50MB file. They already use similar compression to ZIP/RAR, just like AVI files, and 350MB AVI files only save about 5MB or less with extra RAR compression. In fact, some end up larger after being "compressed" using ZIP or RAR. Likewise with PDFs. There is absolutely no reason to compress those filetypes. The same applies to MP4s, PDF, JPEGs, PNG, etc. Sep 9, 2010 at 6:51

As long as the ID3 tags are all in order, why not just put the MP3s themselves in the root of the ZIP folder? I mean, since they're going to be tossed into an iTunes library anyways... I do hate zipping things on a Mac though (when you unzip the file on a PC you get a couple hidden things, including a confusing __MACOSX folder).


Zip is fine for posting it on your webserver. But you really should be getting your music onto distribution channels like emusic and itunes. It's super easy these days. And of course they'll integrate directly with many media players AND offer a broader audience than you're going to get on your website.

Try http://www.tunecore.com/ if you want to sell your stuff and http://www.jamendo.com/ if you want to give it away.

Don't re-invent the wheel! especially when the hoveboard has already been created.

  • Thanks for Jamendo. I will also have it up on all of the digital distribution that CDBaby sends to (including iTunes) but those all cost the end user some money. I'm looking for a way to also post it for free.
    – lukecyca
    Sep 8, 2010 at 17:53
  • yea, jamendo's free to upload, AFAIK. I like it because creative commons features jamendo as The Source for CC music (search.creativecommons.org). Decent rankings too: alexa.com/siteinfo/jamendo.com+napster.com+emusic.com Sep 8, 2010 at 19:23
  • He would be re-inventing the wheel only if he's trying to produce another iTunes/jamendo/tunecore-type service. There's nothing wrong with putting your music up on digital distribution networks and distributing it yourself for free on your own site. If a fan is already on your site, why make them go to iTunes to download your stuff? Sep 9, 2010 at 6:55
  • I agreed zip was the best method for posting on the web-server, but he never clearly indicated that he already has a thriving busy website. So I wanted to answer his question precisely: I think "the ideal user-interaction for full album downloads" would be itunes or jamendo type service, not a bunch of individual artits' websites. Both is wonderful, but if you had to pick one, pick the service. Would you agree with that? Sep 9, 2010 at 20:03


  • A platform-specific "smart client" (this has many names) such as a downloaded Adobe Flex desktop client, or a Silverlight "Out-of-Browser" local client

OR, more likely

  • A single zip file for each album, with a folder structure in the zip, i.e. something like: .\artist-name\album-name\<individual files> ; where the individual file names are on the form <tracknumber> - Title ; and with an MP3 playlist for the album in each album directory.

The zip file is of course way easier to implement...

  • What is the purpose of the folder structure? I realize that's how iTunes organizes it once it imports it, but what purpose does it serve inside the ZIP file?
    – lukecyca
    Sep 8, 2010 at 0:44
  • @lukecyca: That's just how I prefer it, and keep my own music organized. :-) One could argue that there shouldn't be any folders in the zip, the zip should just be there to assemble all the files in one download.
    – user1857
    Sep 8, 2010 at 2:09

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