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April 22nd, 2006

Paul Tries eMusic

A while ago I tried Rhapsody, a subscription-based music service. Over the past couple of months I’ve been trying eMusic just for grins; I started with the free trial and let it continue for another month. I’m here to say that eMusic is as close to ideal as online music gets.

The concept behind it is pretty simple. You pay $x per month and get a certain number of downloads. The pricing varies, in part because eMusic gives promos when you cancel – like 65 downloads per month for $15 (a total bargain at 23 cents per download.) You can pay a year or two in advance if you want, and the price drops.

And, the downloads are VBR MP3s. Not a drop of digital rights management to be found.

The downsides are that you don’t get album art with the downloads, and albums aren’t priced at a discount as they are on iTunes, so a 16-track album costs you 16 downloads. (But heck, at the 65/$15 plan that means the album costs a paltry $3.68.)

So if it’s cheaper, why isn’t everyone using it? Simple: it caters to alternative and indie labels. This isn’t good nor bad, but if you’re strictly browsing for pop songs or what you’ve heard on the radio odds are good that the iTunes store will serve you better since you can download individual songs. But I was able to grab multiple albums I’d wanted for cheap from eMusic, and I feel much better knowing they aren’t crippled by DRM.

For the record, though, I was definitely able to use all my 40 downloads in a month. I got four albums and a mess of singles.

So all in all, I think that iTunes is still the best overall service for downloading songs if you care about mainstream artists. If you don’t, or even if you do, combining it with eMusic makes for a really satisfying, legal music download experience. Synergy!

Posted in Technology

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