Adventures in eMusic

Every dog has its day. Today, it’s eMusic‘s turn to be the dog.

That’s not a criticism of eMusic. I just think it’s a little funny that the roving herd of bloggers (of which I am certainly one) has made its way around to eMusic in the never-ending search for an online music service that works. I’d link to Fred Wilson’s post about eMusic, but I grow weary of one-sided conversations and Scoble told us earlier that it’s not nice to link to Fred.

I used eMusic a ton back in the day. I can’t remember exactly when I started using the service, but it was around the time MP3.Com went from being one of the best music sites ever to one of the worst.

And I found a ton of great music on eMusic, including perhaps the best alternative country band ever, The Star Room Boys. I got a lot of good, legal music from eMusic, much of which is still on my music server.

The problem with eMusic back then and which, based on a quick look today, may still a problem, is that it had almost no major label content. Granted, it had some great indy label music, including a lot by the most under-appreciated label in America, Fat Possum Records. But after you went through the available stuff, the flow of music you wanted slowed to a trickle.

My suspicion about the limited number of major label songs arises from the fact that you can’t see the library of available songs until you sign up. There’s no good reason for that, and so the only reason left is a bad one.

There was a different system in place when I last used eMusic. First, it was unlimited downloads for a set monthly fee. Then is was vaguely limited downloads for the same monthly fee. Now there is the following tiered pricing:

40 downloads per month for $9.99 per month
65 downloads per month for $14.99 per month
90 downloads per month for $19.99 per month.

At signup you can get a free MuVO MP3 player or a 20% discount if you sign up for a 12 month plan. No thanks.

After you signup, you are encouraged to download some software that will let you download entire albums at once. Otherwise, you have to download songs one at a time. Being highly bloatware-adverse, I don’t want to put more software on my computer.

I am sounding like a critic of eMusic, and I don’t mean to. There is a lot to love about it.

For one thing, I absolutely love eMusic’s policy of selling non-DRM infested music. And I readily appreciate the fact that you can get a ton of good music without giving a dime to the record label cartel. eMusic is a central despository for that music, and that music is certainly worth paying for.

But if you want to pick up a classic record by Humble Pie or Steppenwolf, it’s not for you (although it does have an especially good selection of blues).

There is a place for eMusic, for sure. And I hope one day it is viewed as the forefather of online music distribution.

But we’re not there yet. Not by a long shot.