Saturday, September 09, 2006

iTunes vs. eMusic

If you own an iPod and buy digital music, iTunes is the place to go, right? Well, that may no longer be the case.

eMusic, a subscription download service catering to individuals with an "independent" bent, is closing that gap. Members of eMusic pay a monthly fee in exchange for a set amount of downloads -- the site offers three plans: $9.99/month for 40 downloads (works out to $.25/song), $14.99/mo for 65 downloads ($.23/song), $19.99/mo for 90 downloads ($.22/song). If you use your allotment before the end of the month, you have two options: wait until the 1st of the next month, or purchase a "booster pack" for various prices--$15 for 50 songs is best value.

Compare those numbers to a flat rate of $.99/song from iTunes. Correct, there is the occasional album that has 15 tracks and sells for $9.99, or in the case of Razorlight's (very satisfying) new album--10 tracks for $7.99, but typically one will be paying a dollar for every song downloaded from iTunes.

Another benefit to eMusic is the portability, that is, the fact that there is no encryption on the files downloaded from the site, compared to the rather strict guidelines that iTunes places on their files. (ie, don't even think about putting an iTunes track on a MP3 player that is NOT an iPod).

If you look solely at the numbers, it makes sense to join eMusic and scrap iTunes altogether. 40 tracks a month is (about) 4 albums, and I rarely download more than 2 (ok, 3... please don't tell my wife) I could pay $9.99 a month instead of $40 for the same tracks.

Or, I would be paying less for the same tracks IF eMusic had a decent catalogue. If you are eagerly anticipating the release of (insert fav artist here)'s new album, don't expect to find it in eMusic on Tuesday. Unlike iTunes, eMusic does not have the entire music industry waiting with baited breath to do their bidding. When looking for music to download with my free trial (which accidentally turned into a month paid subscription), I was having trouble finding music that I wanted. I resorted to downloading (shudder) Pavement's "Slanted and Enchanted" (granted, I haven't listened to it yet, and I hope I like it so Dan shuts up about it being the "best and most influential album ever" or whatever he says, I usually stop listening).

So, maybe it's not about the money. Maybe it's about the convenience of not having to drive to the record store (read: Best Buy) to try and buy the album that came out today, but rather sitting down and with two clicks and a minute and a half listening to the album (complete with album art) on my iPod...and maybe the thought of being FORCED to pay $10 a month when I just may not want to buy any music (let alone if I can't find any music I want) puts me in a bad mood.

Here is what eMusic is good for. Back-cataloguing. Say you get on to an artist after he has released several albums (Sufjan Stevens is the perfect example), and you want to own his earlier stuff but don't want to pay $.99 per for it. Join up with eMusic, take your 25 free trial tracks and 40 for $9.99 tracks and take 65 Sufjan Stevens songs home in the morning. Round out your collection, look really hip when you say "I prefer his older stuff," and be satisfied that reading this post did you some good.


Erik said...

eMusic definitely is the better store...but iTunes is still the most useful software for organization, ripping and burning cds and so on. Nothing I have ever used for digital music has ever compared with it.

What are your thoughts on bittorrent?
I have found that I feel no guilt downloading an album I onced owned and now don't have becuase someone has walked off with it...or for quick samples of albums.

Tim said...

That's what I used to use Shareza for...well, that's what it started out as, anyway. I have a friend that uses a bittorrent frequently, but I don't think that I want to get into all that...

Don't tell anyone, but I figured out how to put Simpsons episodes on my iPod last weekend...very satisfying. (Though two of the episodes were in foreign languages for some reason). Any tips?

johnldrury said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comparison. I am still on the line, since I don't really like subscription services in general and am a long-time iTunes user. We'll see.