The Grammys are just a few weeks away. Chances are you've come across snippets of songs from the five nominees for album of the year. (Seriously, if you haven't heard "Bad Romance" or "California Gurls," you've been in a coma). But have you intimately listened to each of the albums -- Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs," Eminem's "Recovery," Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now," Lady Gaga's "The Fame Monster" and Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" -- from start to finish?
Before you place a wager on a winner or declare a favorite, it may be a good idea to buy (not illegally download) these great albums. You're a respectable college student, not a petty crook. At the same time, you're a college student, not some pop star with money to burn.
Compare and Contrast, Money College's new price comparison column, looked to see how much digital albums and old school albums on CD cost through Amazon, iTunes and Walmart, so you know where to get the best deal. Besides, we were just curious which retailer generally offered the best deal for music.
And before you say, "CDs, what are those?" know this: 240 million physical albums were sold in the United States last year compared to 86.3 million digital albums, according to Nielsen Soundscan.All information is current as of Jan. 19. Prices are subject to change.
Album: The Fame Monster
Artist: Lady Gaga
Price on Amazon: $4.99 for digital album; $9.97 for audio CD; $12.99 for deluxe version digital album (includes the album "The Fame"); $15.58 for deluxe version audio CD. Standard shipping is $2.98. (Bonus: Free $5 credit for Amazon Video on Demand for purchase of deluxe version digital album; free $1 credit for Amazon digital music downloads with each audio CD purchase.)
Price on iTunes: $7.99 for digital album; $14.99 for deluxe version digital album. (Bonus: Digital booklet and bonus Starsmith Remix of "Bad Romance" on standard version; deluxe version includes the remix, booklet and bonus track "Disco Heaven.")
Price at Walmart: $8 for audio CD; $16.98 for deluxe version audio CD
Album: Need You Now
Artist: Lady Antebellum
Price on Amazon: $5 for digital album and booklet; $9.99 for audio CD; $12.76 for import audio CD (includes bonus track "I Run To You"); $36.06 for deluxe import audio CD (includes large shirt). Standard shipping $2.98. (Bonus: Free $1 credit for Amazon digital music downloads with purchase.)
Price on iTunes: $9.99 for digital album. (Bonus: Free bonus extended version of the song "Need You Now.")
Price at Walmart: $11.88 for audio CD
Price on Amazon: $5.99 for digital album; $11.88 for audio CD. Standard shipping $2.98. (Bonus: Free $1 credit for Amazon digital music downloads with purchase of audio CDs.)
Price on iTunes: $11.99 for digital album; $14.99 for deluxe digital album (includes two songs, "Ridaz" and "Session One" and a music video for the song "Not Afraid"). (Bonus: Both albums include digital booklet.)
Price on Walmart: $11.88 for edited audio CD
Album: Teenage Dream
Artist: Katy Perry
Price on Amazon: $7.99 for digital album; $9.99 for audio CD; $24.61 for imported special edition audio CD (includes five bonus tracks); $45.33 for imported audio CD of album plus boxer shorts. Standard shipping $2.98. (Bonus: Free $1 credit for Amazon digital music downloads for each audio CD purchase.)
Price on iTunes: $6.99 for digital album; $12.99 for deluxe digital album (includes four remixes and a music video for the song "Teenage Dream").
Price at Walmart: $11.88 for edited audio CD
Album: The Suburbs
Artist: Arcade Fire
Price on Amazon: $6.99 for digital album; $8.99 for audio CD Standard shipping $2.98. (Bonus: Free $1 credit for Amazon digital music downloads with purchase of audio CD.)
Price on iTunes: $7.99 for digital album. (Bonus: Includes digital booklet.)
Price at Walmart: $10 for audio CD
What We Think
iTunes may occasionally offer bonus tracks and other perks on its exclusive standard and deluxe digital albums, but all the extra stuff isn't as appealing as the low prices Amazon offers for its digital albums. For digital albums, we recommend going with Amazon.
As for physical CDs, Walmart is typically the best deal, after you take Amazon's shipping costs into account, but Walmart only offers clean versions of music. (Meaning you can't hear any F-bombs and such on "Recovery" and "Teenage Dream.") We're all about freedom of expression. Browse Amazon first for albums you're interested in buying; the site will indicate if the album has explicit lyrics. If it does, buy it there. If there's no mention of explicit lyrics, then buy that album at Walmart.
Piet Levy's Compare and Contrast breaks down the prices and perks for products and services college kids want every other week on WalletPop's Money College page. Send suggestions, including items or services you want Piet to write about, to email@example.com.
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