March 27, 2006 12:41 PM   Subscribe

Anybody used or familiar with a music download service called emusic.com?

I saw a TV ad for this the other night and checked it out. It is a subscription service for what appears to be independent bands/labels. Is it worth it? All the downloads are mp3's and once you have them there is no restriction on burning them or loading them on players including iPods. They do offer a 25 song free trial.
posted by 543DoublePlay to Media & Arts (24 answers total)
Yes (and I know from previous questions that many others on mefi have an emusic account too). I find it to be worth it -- there's never been a month where I haven't found something to download, and often it's good stuff that works out to be much cheaper than the CD. (It might be worth asking a more specific question, though...what kind of music are you looking for? etc.)
posted by advil at 12:52 PM on March 27, 2006

Best answer: I've been an emusic member for a while, and am currently on my second subscription. They were originally an unlimited download service with a monthly fee, I ended my original membership when they changed to their current model. I signed up again about a year ago and haven't had any real complaints.

I would recommend them if they have the stuff that you are in to (and they do have a lot of stuff), they currently do not offer any music from any of the major labels, but most independenants are on there. You are limited to a specified number of downloads a month, so you have to make sure that you use up your downloads before the month is up. Also, it can be a bit cumbersome sorting through the thousands of albums they add each month.

There is no restrictions or DRM on their mp3 files, and have never had a problem loading them on to my ipod or burning onto a mix cd.

Try it out, you can always cancel it.
posted by helvetica at 12:53 PM on March 27, 2006

I used to have it when it was unlimited, it was great for checking out the jazz greats. Probably they wouldn't have Xs most famous album but they would generally have something by them. I first discovered Blackalicious on emusic as well.
posted by teleskiving at 1:02 PM on March 27, 2006

I really like it -- the plan I have gets me 40 songs/month and I think it's something like $12.99. I've been able to get brand new music from them right when it comes out. For example, last month I downloaded the new releases from Cat Power, Belle & Sebastian, and Neko Case, which would've cost me around $30-50 if I'd bought all three CDs or downloaded them from iTunes. So given my musical tastes, it's totally worth it.
posted by echo0720 at 1:03 PM on March 27, 2006

Emusic are good people.
posted by zerolives at 1:05 PM on March 27, 2006

Best answer: Experience with this a few years ago, so I'm curious to hear about people's experiences now. I've been trying to decide whether to give it another try.

I'll just note one thing - it's sort of difficult but not impossible to get into the full catalog to see what they actually have. But you can browse the whole catalog whether you're a member or not here.
posted by nanojath at 1:08 PM on March 27, 2006

Sometimes I find eMusic's selection lacking. If I go there to look for something in particular I generally don't find it, but if I go there to browse, I can usually find something worth hearing.

Their service is low overhead and simple to use but sometimes the song samples don't work and the browser based sorting methods aren't always very effectual.

On the first of the month, when my downloads are allotted, I tend to go on a download frenzy and get some things that I probably could do without. I prefer iTunes here because I'm made more aware of having made a specific purchase which lets me calm the heck down, but overall eMusic feels more comfortable and economical because downloading shorter "interlude" tracks isn't a 99 cent kick in the pants.

Hope this helps.
posted by dobie at 1:10 PM on March 27, 2006

It's legit and a pretty good deal...

Pretty much what everyone else has said...
posted by unixrat at 1:11 PM on March 27, 2006

I used eMusic for a time, but I was more interested in discovering new music than findin the latest and greatest. Their trance/electronic collection was superb and I made off with gigs of the stuff. I give 'em a dated thumbs-up.
posted by DWRoelands at 1:15 PM on March 27, 2006

Disclaimer: I do not use them currently, and have not for several years. I just could not pass up a chance to reminisce.

I used to use them back in their old days (before November 2003), when they advertised "unlimited downloads" for $10/month, but sent a warning letter if you went over 2000 tracks a month.

While they did not carry much in the way of modern mainstream, I found plenty worthwhile. Those were the golden days for exploring new music via emusic. I subscribed for two years, and downloaded almost 25GB of music that I still listen to. I discovered artists like Firewater, Transglobal Underground, Alpha Blonde, picked up stuff by others I already knew, like Frank Black and Gary Numan, and re-discovered a taste for old Jazz (Louis Armstrong, in particular).

Then the company was sold to new owners, and the "bad times" came. Message boards were shut down, and prices were hiked to $0.25/track. Where before I could download an album on a whim, now I was forced to pick and choose. While I could see why they did it, it changed the entire nature of the service for me, so I left.

That said, they do offer better prices than iTunes, and use standard mp3s, no DRM, which makes them less evil than many others. They can be a fair bargin if they have artists you like. There have been a couple times recently I've considered going back for a bit, but nothing they've had has been strong enough to drag me back in.

That said, if you want to sign up, look around, as I've seen 50 or 100 free song promotions. Google found me this one from acoustica, for instance.
posted by fings at 1:19 PM on March 27, 2006

I love emusic.com and with the free downloads to try, you really have nothing to lose. You should be able to tell pretty quickly if they have the kind of music you like. And if you do, and join, they have a very nice perk wherby if you refer a friend and they end up joining, you get an additional 50 free songs.
posted by ilikecookies at 1:30 PM on March 27, 2006

Another happy emusic subscriber here. I started during the unlimited download period a few years ago, and my subscription hasn't lapsed once. I can't even count how many artists and genres I've found that I wouldn't have heard otherwise.
posted by cmonkey at 1:40 PM on March 27, 2006

I've been using it for 5 years. It's fantastic. I buy the annual plan and it's 18 cents a track. I've bought more than about 200 gigs of music from them. They're terrific.

Then the company was sold to new owners, and the "bad times" came.

I think you're misunderstanding what happened. As I, and many others, said on the message boards, things would change as soon as Apple launched iTMS. No label in their right mind would stick around with unlimited downloads for $10 when Apple was paying a buck a track. emusic had to choose between closing or changing. It's still a fantastic deal.
posted by dobbs at 1:47 PM on March 27, 2006

Another former subscriber here. I joined when they were unlimited (anyone remember how they bundled an advert with the PJB-100 mp3 player?) and left about a year ago. The cancelation was due mainly to the fact that I've been trimming down my "luxuries" in an effort to save up for a major purchase.

I was always pleased with the service and the fact that my mp3s still work on any device, despite my membership status.

Emusic's rates are good, but the per-song deal is an annoyance if the genres you like produce albums with many, albeit short, tracks. Emusic has yet to instate a per-album scheme, IIRC.
posted by Sangre Azul at 1:59 PM on March 27, 2006

I'll throw my vote in for emusic as well. Good music, good service, and my monthly payment makes me feel a little less guilty about getting music from other, less legitimate sources.
posted by purephase at 6:11 PM on March 27, 2006

I find that it is worth it, if you like the kind of music they have. I've built up a pretty good selection of Elizabethan and folk music through eMusic. It's also a pretty good place to get stuff that's out-of-print through the usual sources. I've had problems with their Download Manager, so I actually have to get files individually, but that's the only problem I've had.
posted by jlkr at 6:11 PM on March 27, 2006

Great serivice. At ~ 22c a song, I dont think there's a better deal out there. They have a decent indie section and I always find music I want. Best part, your downloads roll over.
try it!
posted by special-k at 6:41 PM on March 27, 2006

go for it, as long as your musical taste is different and eclectic. if youre interested in top-40 lowest-common-denominator crap, go elsewhere, there isnt too much of that stuff.

but they have a ton of underground hip-hop, indie rock, punk rock, as well as good world music, classical, and jazz.

i have been a subscriber for about 6 years now. i signed up in 2000. as noted, back then it was 'all you can eat' and it sounded cool. i found a promotion where they gave you a month for free, and then when you agreed to stick with them for a year, they sent an autographed they might be giants cd and a they might be giants fleece as well.

anyway, best service out there. if you decide to get an account, you should find another subscriber (any of the people above, for example) and have them send you an invitation to the site. you'll still get your free 25 or 50 songs or whatever as a trial, and they get like 25 free or something for a finders fee.
posted by kneelconqueso at 7:49 PM on March 27, 2006

I've used it and I liked it but would add this one idea: In my opinion we may all be sad one day to own hundreds of MP3's. I think there's a good chance that we'll all have devices in the near future that will allow us to carry around our music collections like we do now, but in an uncompressed format, thus having CD quality sound. It seems unlikely that 8-Track quality sound (which is what MP3's are) will end up being the final frontier of music formatting.

So, I stopped using emusic not because it wasn't a good service and good deal (it is both) but because I decided not to buy compressed music anymore. So, now the music service that I use is called half.com. I'm hoping the little bit extra that I pay to own the CD (even though it just sits in my attic once I load it into iTunes) will pay off in the long run when I don't have to repurchase uncompressed files in the future.

Just a thought. Maybe I'm crazy. (But, if I'm crazy, I'm not the only one. There were a couple of articles in WIRED recently that talked about this same idea).
posted by crapples at 7:52 PM on March 27, 2006

Hey Crapples!

The great thing about Emusic, especially in the "unlimited" days, was checking out all the bands you hadn't heard of before because of the alternative selection, and discovering new bands or new albums by bands you might have heard of briefly. They have lots of "The Mountain Goats."
posted by craniac at 8:00 PM on March 27, 2006

Another happy long-term subscriber here. I started back in the days of unlimited downloads, and it's definitely not as fun as it used to be, but every month I still download stuff that I wind up keeping and listening to. I've discovered not just new artists but entire new genres (for example, old gospel music or Indian classical music). I've also downloaded new copies of a fair amount of my old postpunk and hardcore vinyl from the early 80s, stuff that I had stashed in my parents' attic for 20 years and that I never found on P2P.

I'm also happy to send my money to support a legal, mp3-based service, instead of buying CDs or supporting Apple or Microsoft's DRM. If eMusic can make money, the industry might have more incentive to change the way they treat their customers.

One thing to watch out for is if you live outside of US, more and more labels are making their stuff unavailable to eMusic. I'm started to get tired of the "we're sorry, due to licensing restrictions you can't download this song from your location".

If you do join, here are some tips:
- The Booster Pack of 50 extra songs for $15 is a pretty good deal if you want more songs than you can download that month.
- Someone scrapes the listing of new music every couple of days and posts a summary to the forums. Here's his most recent posting, which includes Godspeed You Black Emperor, Bowery Electric, Stars of the Lid, and some Jessica Bailiff that I'll happily blow next month's downloads on. You can also find the full list in an easy-to-read format here. People also post links to the daily free downloads on the forums, so that you don't have to install the eMusic Toolbar to get them.
- iTunes does a lousy job of handling m3u playlists from the Web, so when you try to listen to an entire album on preview, it only plays the excerpt of the first song. Here's an AppleScript hack that fixes the problem. I made a Javascript version for Windows, but it was my first Javascript program ever and it's a little shaky. E-mail me if you want a copy.
- Sometimes a download fails in the middle. If you're using the eMusic Download Manager, you can usually finish the download by resuming it. If that fails, you want to go to the My Downloads section of My Profile and download it again. If you go to the album page and download the song a second a time, they'll charge you again for it. If things go really wrong, Customer Service is fast about crediting you with extra downloads.
posted by fuzz at 1:54 AM on March 28, 2006

Another happy eMusic user here. Very very good for jazz, alternative/independent, and world music.
posted by enrevanche at 5:56 AM on March 28, 2006

I've been a member for more than three years and keep re-upping. Shows that I can't get enough. The world catalog is excellent, and the folk/country ain't bad either.
posted by key_of_z at 3:07 PM on March 28, 2006

Another happy eMusic user. A few points (and a tip):

- There is an unofficial FAQ about eMusic.
- The message boards are back.
- My experience is that the monthly downloads do not rollover. If you don't use up your monthly downloads by the end of the month, you lose them.
- According to postings on the message board, analysis with Encspot indicates that eMusic encodes most of it tracks at ~192kbps VBR using LAME. According to Wired, MP3's encoded with LAME at above 160kbps "outperform" other formats in "double-blind tests." Bottom line: eMusic's tracks sound better than iTunes' tracks.
- I use the iTunes Music Store mixes to find tracks on eMusic. If you pick a mix on the iTunes store that is likely to have a lot of tracks from independent lables in it (e.g. "80's College Radio" or "Women of Alternative Country"), many of the tracks will be on eMusic. It is a great way to find artists on eMusic.
posted by javelina at 8:39 PM on March 28, 2006

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