iTunes v. eMusic

I didn't buy the Sam Baker CD at the Fred Picnic (having already blown more than I should have on other CD's and DVD's) but as I thought more about Baker's performance (and based on Beer Doug, a huge music fan in his own right, saying that it was the best CD he'd heard in years), I went to iTunes and bought it from there. 

I'd only bought one song from iTunes before, more just to test the site out for myself, just like that single book order I made from Amazon.com way back in 1997.  But this was the first time I bought an entire album. 

I didn't think too much about any DRM (digital rights management) problems assuming that, at the least, I'd be able to play the song on my Sony MP3 player even if I couldn't burn it to CD or whatever.  I also figured that I'd be able to hack the DRM if I couldn't copy it straight across.  

But it turns out that Apple's DRM makes it extremely difficult to play the songs (that you've just paid for!) on a non-Apple device.  Of course, you can get around this by a) paying extra for a third-party piece of software to convert tracks from M4P (Apple's proprietary format) to MP3
or
b) with a bit of tech-know-how and extra time, burn the tracks to CD as iTunes allows you to do then converting back to MP3.


Neither solution was ideal so I put “Sam Baker Mercy” on my Soulseek wishlist and within a couple days, the songs were found for free download as MP3's, ready to be easily copied to my MP3 player and able to be played by WinAmp (my trusty favourite over the newer iTunes). 

After reading an article on Michael Geist's site (he's doing a “30 Days of DRM” series that's worth checking out) about eMusic's advantages over iTunes, I went to that site and found that they had the album as well.  eMusic is similar to iTunes except they sell songs and albums with no restrictions of any kind in MP3 format.  Because of this, they have very few major label artist but specialize in independents, jazz and other non-mainstream fare, a strategy that has made them the second largest online music store in the world. 

As with Amazon and iTunes, I'd also tried out eMusic before (when I first got my laptop, I hadn't copied over my music collection so their non-conditional offer of 25 free downloads for new subscribers – which still exists – was much appreciated) but didn't think of them when I wanted to buy the Sam Baker album.  I won't make that mistake before – I'm going to check eMusic first for all my future digital music purchases and would encourage you to do the same.  Or why not sign-up and get the 25 free downloads anyhow – even without major labels, they've got some pretty big name artists – from the Arcade Fire to Steve Earle to early stuff from big names like Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison and Johnny Cash.) 

They have a
subscription model instead of per-unit pricing but at the basic level
of 40 downloads for $9.99/month, I could've signed up, bought the Baker
album plus downloaded 30 other songs and then unsubscribed, still
getting much better value then dealing with iTunes. 

Comments 2

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    i like plugging in my ipod (yep, i went apple, it's not just a generic mp3 player) into friend's computers and dumping on new music that i haven't heard but they like.
    i hate that itunes songs are only authorized to play on a certain number of computers. so the songs i yanked off a friend in england require me to put in her username and password so i can hear them on my computer (or burn them to a mix CD) but i can listen on my ipod.
    the other thing that bugs me, is that without additional software it's really hard to pull music from your ipod back to your computer. it's in a hidden folder and the songs have gobbledegook names. fukkahs…
    what's your soulseek userid? i'm lusty_librarian.
    and in more youtube fun, shoes! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XvwaiOtups (you'll need a youtube account to view it)

    Posted 26 Aug 2006 at 4:27 pm
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    Yep, the more I learn about iPod, the more I wonder how they became such a success? The power of marketing “cool”, I guess.
    BTW, I'm “HeadTale” on Soulseek.

    Posted 02 Sep 2006 at 3:07 am

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