Listening to music online

I'd love to get some feedback/advice from online dwellers regarding sound clips and online music.

Considering both convienience and sound quality, is there a strong benefit to either streaming or downloaded audio files? I'm used to listening to streaming Real Audio when shopping at CDNow or Amazon. The sound sucks, but it's functional.

Is there a better sounding alternative? I'm trying to educate myself so I can make a few better-informed decisions on upgrades for our site. Any suggestions will be greatly appriciated.
I don't understand your question. What are you trying to accomplish with online music? MP3 is much better than streaming however streaming is the format used at the sites you mentioned. They are only trying to give you a sample of what the song sounds like, not its quality What is your objective?
Sorry if I was a bit vague. I'm trying to be careful not to cross the line between conversation and advertising/self promotion. Hopefully, I'm not doing so now. This just seems like an excellent forum for advice.

We consistently get this feedback from people interested in Mapleshade: "I've heard great things about you recordings, but I don't know any of the musicians on your label." Putting audio clips on our website seems like a good way to address this issue. But, there's a draw back. For me, our music loses A LOT of it's emotional impact once it's compressed and mutated into streaming audio. So much so, I don't think I'd buy some of my favorite CDs in our catalog if I were basing my decision on the audio clips posted on our site. Previously, I wouldn't have guessed that the recording quality and musical appeal of our music was so tightly interweaved.

In short, my objective is to present the best possible sounding samples of our music in a manner that is most convienient for people browsing our site. Any suggestions?
Eldon; I am not an authority on the subject matter at hand but I do know enough to maybe get you started. The streaming that I heard does sound horrible. MP3 is a compression format which is the format used at places like Napster and some newsgroups. Generally the higher the bitrate the better the sound. Bitrates range from 64-320. There is also a variable bitrate which is the best.
I'm not familiar with streaming technology but I have an idea that the bitrate is very low thus poor recording. However because its file size is small it is faster to download. You might be able to make samples in mp3 format but your listeners would have to have an mp3 player to play the sample. There are free mp3 players for download. You could put a link to the free players. However keep in mind, the better the quality the larger the file and the slower the download. 192 is probably the best bang for the buck.
I don't know if this has been helpful to you. As I said, I am no authority.