50 Free Downloads. That was the email message from eMusic, the #2 online music seller after Apple’s iTunes Store.
Fine. I’m game. Let’s see what #2 can do up against #1. What’s the verdict after 50 free songs?
Remember, iTunes Store is #1 in the US, #1 in the world, and #1 for a reason. Try another online store. Any store. Try #2.
eMusic has carved out a nice niche for itself and is the self-proclaimed #2 seller of music online, just now topping 100-million songs sold (versus Apple’s iTunes Store which has sold north of 1.5-billion songs).
eMusic is the #2 seller for a number of reasons. The most important is that there’s no copy protection on the music you download. It’s all MP3, so it’ll play on your iPod or any decent portable music player.
The eMusic selection of songs and albums is less than Apple’s iTunes, at about a million songs, so you won’t find every artist on eMusic, and for some you find, you won’t find every song.
What’s interesting about eMusic is that it’s #2 with only 100-million songs sold over the years. What does that say about Real Networks, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and everyone else trying to make a buck by hawking songs online?
It’s hard to pass up 50 free downloads, so I gave it a shot and signed up for eMusic to see if Apple’s got any real competition sneaking up behind.
The eMusic web site is fast, though not correspondingly simple to figure out. Maybe it’s that whole web browser window that struggles to compete with iTunes and iTunes Store.
There’s really only four steps required to sign up for eMusic, so that process isn’t much different than setting up an account with iTunes Store. Credit card, name, address, phone, login ID and password.
There’s also an option for an eMusic Subscription Plan which goes into effect after the first 14 day trial.
eMusic Basic is $9.99 a month for 30 downloads. Do the math. Not bad.
eMusic Plus gets you 50 downloads for $14.99 a month, and eMusic Premium is 75 downloads per month for $19.99. Remember, you own the songs. It’s not a subscription service like Microsoft or Real or whatever.
Set up an account, select a plan, and then—another plan. The eMusic Basic Annual gets you a 20-percent discount. 30 downloads a month for 12 months for $95.90.
Step 3 is a quick look at your music preferences, and Step 4 is the software download, Mac or Windows. Step 5 is just a welcome screen. Now the fun begins.
eMusic’s web site is required to compete with the media rich and ultra simplicity of Apple’s iTunes Store. There’s a reason Apple is #1 and everyone else is #2 or worse.
The home page for eMusic is straightforward, a bit cluttered but no worse than other sites or iTunes Store. The tabs at the top go from Browse to New to Charts to Magazine to eMusic Live to Profile.
The speaker icon lets you listen to pieces of each song, but does nothing in Safari, and pops up a .m3u file in Firefox asking if you want to open the file in, guess what? iTunes. Oh, boy. This is going to be fun.
Browsing is straightforward. Click on a Genres, Dates, Artists, and so on. There’s also a search box. Let’s try Garth Brooks.
Response? There’s the Garth Brooks Tribute, a karaoke album of Brooks’ music. Hmmm. That didn’t work well. How about Elvis Presley? Every store should have Elvis, right?
eMusic has The Best of Elvis Presley—by Tony Ray. There’s also the Elvis Presley Seance by Fish from Tahiti. So, not much old, how about new. Carrie Underwood?
There’s another tribute with the Carrie Underwood Tribute—for karaoke. Now I know where to go for my karaoke music. Sarah McLachlan?
Jackpot. Sarah McLachlan’s Greatest Hits Volume 63—by the Karaoke All Stars. How about Toby Keith (I’m in a personal groove here; deal with it)?
More tributes and more karaoke. Clearly, this process isn’t working, so, George, it’s time for a change. Top Artists and Top Albums, and finally, some names I recognize.
Charlie Daniels, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Otis Redding, Tom Waits, John Coltrane, and 30 other names I’d never heard of except for the London Symphony Orchestra, which I’d never heard of but it sounded as if I should have.
I looked around other categories and found the selection thin but the price was right (remember—50 free downloads). Just as it is with the iTunes Store, you can buy the whole album or any single from the album.
Clicking on the Download button in Firefox got another pop up to use the eMusic Download Manager. That worked fine, though each song was saved as an eMusic Package File. I have no idea why.
All the MP3’s I downloaded were saved to a My eMusic folder on my desktop. Getting the songs into iTunes for transport to my iPod was a breeze.
eMusic, while vague, unintuitive, and thin on selection, actually works. It’s easy to see why eMusic is #2 and iTunes Store is #1. I pity the fools using the other stores.
Apple makes the whole process of searching, selecting, buying, downloading, and synchronizing music to a music player so easy, so simple.
Have you purchased any music online? Have you tried an online music store besides iTunes Store? How did it work for you? Share your experience with other Mac360 readers in the Comments section below.