A few months ago I purchased a subscription to eMusic, a DRM-free MP3 site that has been around for quite some time. I started out with the basic 40-song plan (about $10/month), but after browsing the site I quickly upgraded to the 90-song plan (more like $20/month) because I wanted to get more than 3 albums in a month. If you do the simple math, songs are $0.25 a piece - 1/4 of iTunes' price, and still beating a $10 CD on sale by at least half, depending on the number of songs. Unlike iTunes, there is no album discount. You get a certain number of songs every month, and once you reach your limit, you either have to upgrade your plan or wait until next month.
I have to say that they make the barrier to entry VERY attractive. Default plans include a free MP3 player (in progressively larger sizes for each plan). If you already have a music player or don't like what they're giving out, you can opt for a plan that saves you 20%, making your song downloads more like $0.20 each at the lowest level. Now that's a 12-song album for less than $2.50 -- not even used record stores or most flea markets can beat that price. You know the quality of the songs you're getting (184kbps, vbr), you know the songs are the full album versions with no DJ speak on top, and now I can also say that they have some really good "indie rock" groups as well, which makes a lot of sense to me.
Oh, did I mention that this is 100% legal?
Just before I cancelled my subscription today (because I lost my paying gig), I noticed some of my favorite artists and labels as part of the eMusic catalog. Some of the more notable examples include the catalogs of some very reputable indie labels like 4AD (formerly Axis Records, The Pixies, The Mountain Goats), Matador (Cornelius, Belle and Sebastian) and ATO (Ben Kweller, Gomez). In the past I have also downloaded records by Eels, The Lemonheads, Joe Jackson, Katherine Whalen and Andrew Bird. It appears the list of albums and artists is changing on fairly consistent basis, so it pays to check back fairly regularly. They send a semi-weekly email telling you about new artists and labels joining the club too.
Just because I cancelled my subscription doesn't mean you will want to. This would make an EXCELLENT stocking stuffer (Christmas is just around the corner) for any music lover. eMusic also has an entire classical section which I never even peeked in to, but I'm sure it has a decent coverage of at least 1/3 of anything a classical buff might desire. In truth, I don't think any download sites (especially torrent sites and P2P communities) can claim a reliable, persistently available, comprehensive and easy to use catalog of ANY music selection WITHOUT DRM.
eMusic is a company I feel comfortable spending my money with.
Did I mention it's very easy to use? Did I mention this will work on every MP3 player? Did I mention it's legal? Did I mention the great catalog? I'm not saying they have everything. The music industry sucks too much to actually have something that great happen.
Update: I just read this post on Boing Boing that says eMusic will be downgrading plans on November 21st. Current subscriptions won't be affected. Here is the breakdown:
|Basic - $9.99||40 songs||30 songs|
|Plus - $14.99||65 songs||50 songs|
|Premium - $19.99||90 songs||75 songs|
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