eMusic vs. iTunes

emusic just released an OS X download client, which is great because I just got hooked on the service. After getting all hopped up on the iTunes store last week, began to read more and more pieces making the points that A) the .99/track price at the iTunes Store isn’t so impressive when you compare it to eMusic’s all-you-can-eat chuck-wagon smorgasbord for $10 or $15 month and B) emusic’s catalog will be more up your alley if your tastes veer off the Billboard Top 100.

The emusic subscription pays for itself if you download an album per month. Many broadband users download an album per hour. But it’s not just about big value. In the past two days I’ve rediscovered The Fugs, The Cramps, The Kinks, Dub Syndicate, John Fahey and Bert Jansch, discovered Mission of Burma records I didn’t know existed, and fleshed out my Wes Montgomery and Leo Kottke collections. I’m not saying there isn’t lots of stuff I like from the Big 5 labels represented by Apple, only that it’s a lot more expensive and emusic is more in line with my tastes. Why not have both? Between the two you have access to a huge swath of both Top 100 and more obscure music. iTunes costs nothing to have access to, and emusic is way cheaper than my usual CD habit (which has abated greatly since Miles arrived).

One other important point: emusic is pure MP3, rather than DRM’d AAC. In other words, no “infected” files — no authorizing and de-authorizing computers – emusic puts the responsibility of not stealing music into the customer’s hands, rather than trying to solve it with technology. On the other hand, the iTunes interface rocks. On the other other hand, emusic can be used on most any platform.

As always, Andrew Orlowski gets surly on the point. TechTV has a good comparison of the services.

Music: The Fugs :: Dirty Old Man

3 Replies to “eMusic vs. iTunes”

  1. Emusic just changed over to VBR, too, so they’re quality should be in line with Apple’s new offering.

    I’m only upset because now I have the urge to chuck everything I have downloaded and start over.

    The new simultaneous download limit, however, made me think twice about doing that.


  2. I think that my favourite part of the emusic interface is the “You might also like…” suggestion list. Not only does it make a search with no hits not a complete waste, but it’s uncannilly good, even when I enter fairly obscure artists.

    I don’t visit emusic every day or even every month (especially since I let my subscription lapse a little while ago in a cost-cutting move). However, once every couple of months I spent an afternoon and download ten or twenty albums. I’ve discovered a lot of artists who I didn’t even know existed that way. Cornelius and Japanese Telecom were purely emusic-driven discoveries for me. Similarly, I had known of Pigface, but disliked what I’d heard in the past. Emusic had a fair chunk of their stuff, so I reevaluated them and discovered a lot that I liked.

    In the end, I think that that would have improved my impression of the iTunes/AMS interface — if, when it hadn’t turned up any hits at all on what I was searching for, it had said, “Sorry, we don’t have that, but we do have these artists, who are similar…” I really missed that.

  3. Totally. Although I’d make a distinction here between features and interface. iTunes already has a feature “People who bought this album also bought these…” which is similar, and iTunes can easily add a recommendations feature like emusic’s. In contrast, emusic can’t offer integration into iTunes, can’t offer the smooth operation and instantaneous previews you get with iTunes. iTunes has an interface emusic can’t match, though iTunes can match emusic’s features pretty easily.

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