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eMusic vs. iMusic

Someone published an article called Why eMusic Gets It as a direct comparison between eMusic and the iTunes Music Store (iMusic for the purpose of a funnier title). Point by point, let's have a look at the issues raised.

1. No DRM or Crippled Files Yeah, the iTunes Music Store has "managed" files, but frankly, the rights are pretty broad. These "rights" play into a later point.

2. Cross Platform Mentions the need for iTunes. Funny, but I played my "protected" tracks in the Finder, QuickTime Player, and my car's CD player. My iPod too. Well, whatever… QuickTime exists for Windows as well, and iTunes is going there as well.

3. Searchable Without Setup/Subscription Uhhh, same thing with the ITMS.

4. Flat Rate Same thing again, just in a different way: per song instead of per month. This works out better for me. I may not spend $10/month.

5. Full Albums Check, got those.

6. Worthwhile Free Trial Nope, don't have one of those, but the 30-second previews are nice.

I searched for several random bands in my iTunes playlist: R.E.M., Toad the Wet Sprocket, Shania Twain, Destiny's Child, Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Fleetwood Mac, Eminem, The Corrs, etc. How many did eMusic have?


Which is odd, because that's about as much of my money as eMusic will ever get. Sorry bub, but your "diss" of the ITMS is not well founded at all. Move along and make room for someone who knows what they're talking about.

19 Responses to "eMusic vs. iMusic"

  1. I didn't think his article was a diss, really (in fact, he updated it to reflect some issues with Emusic).

    I subscribe to Emusic, and I suspect I will be spending money in the ITunes music store too. Why? They both have great (and growing) collections... but Apple has major labels, and Emusic tends more to the indie end of the spectrum.

    I will be buying old favorites and albums that I've been meaning to get for ages, from Apple. But when I want to explore some new (to me) genre of music -- and I need more than 30 seconds to decide if I like it -- EMusic is definitely the way to go for me.

  2. I've been an Emusic subscriber for a while. It all depends on what your tastes are. Currently, Emusic actually beats the ITMS selection in some areas -- namely, jazz and indie labels, and electronic music. I use both, and will continue to do so.

  3. It didn't feel like a diss to me, either. I don't mind ite ITMS; in fact I'd love to buy there (can't yet, because I don't live in the U.S.), but for people listening mainly to Indy music, EMusic does have some advantages:

    The ITMS doesn't even list independent labels yet, although it's been indicated that this will change soon.

    For anyone buying more than 10 songs or 1 album per month, EMusic is cheaper. (And $.99 per song is not a flatrate. That'd be like saying: Sure I've got an internet flatrate: $.01/minute. Flatrate means: Same price, no matter how much.)

    I usually download at least 2 or 3 albums per month from EMusic. Even if these artists were available in the ITMS - which they aren't yet - and even if I were able to use it - which I can't yet - I'd still get them from EMusic, because I'd pay less that way.

    That doesn't mean the ITMS doesn't have its place - it's just that it's better in some things and EMusic's better in others.

    If, however, through some miraculous deal all music were available via EMusic (which will never happen), I'd use it instead of ITMS, because I'd easily rack up more than 1 album or 10 songs per month.

  4. Oh, and btw: EMusic works with Linux, too. The ITMS doesn't, and I don't see it happening any time soon.

  5. eMusic didn't have the indie label *I* wanted. Do a little search for Drive-Thru and you'll see what I mean.

  6. Yeah, it certainly wasn't a diss.. I felt it was a pretty open comparison.

    You brush the DRM off like it doesn't mean anything at all. I agree that ITMS's DRM is pretty flexible, and quite reasonable. But DRM is DRM, and any way you cut it, its taking your rights as a listener away. I think Apple's DRM still leaves you with a lot of your basic rights, but the fact that its there at all is an important point.

    Windows and Mac does not count as cross platform. You need the other operating systems for that! And no Windows downloader yet, until the software is installed, its as good as vaporware.

    Have to agree with an above comment about the flat rate. ITMS isn't a flat rate. Its a cost effective system if you are only doing a few songs a month, but if you download more than one average album per month (I know I would!) then ITMS's rate gets pricey, and fast.

    No free trial is annoying. I want to try things out, see how I like them. Of course, while eMusic has a free trial, if I decide to go with their service, I have to get a 3 month minimum contract or a year contract if I want the better price. Thats a minimum of 45$ to get started. I can just download a few tracks from the ITMS and spend 6$ to decide if I like it or not. I don't think either really 'wins' here. eMusic has free trial, but higher startup cost, ITMS has no free trial, but low startup cost.

    You mention some bands you couldn't find on ITMS. Well, I searched for a few of my favorite artists, stuff I listen to a lot, not just random things from my collection: Pete Namlook, Infected Mushroom, and Twilight Circus Dub Sound System. Didn't find any of them on ITMS, however, all of those were listed at eMusic. It just depends on who you listen to. eMusic doesn't have any of the big big label stuff, but they have a great selection of small and indie labels, which have most of my favorite music anyway. The intended audience is a little different. The best system would have mainstream and indie together, but since neither of the systems we are discussing do, then its really just personal taste.

    The final thing that hasn't been mentioned yet, surprisingly, is audio quality! eMusic is using 128kbs MP3, and ITMS is using 128kbs AAC. Same bitrate, but AAC does sound much better. Still not quite as good as I'd prefer, but the improvement over MP3 is clear. Thats one thing ITMS definately has over eMusic. However, they sacrifice player support in exchange for better sound. iPod plays them, which is key, but it leaves other players in the dust (not unintentional, I believe). eMusic has been claiming for a long time that they are going to up their bitrates, which is the only thing keeping me from signing up today (I'm not currently a customer of either service). My dream would be that hardware makers would finally support Ogg Vorbis, and then ITMS and eMusic would offer Q5 or better .ogg files, but thats a bit of a pipe dream for now. More reasonably, I'd like 192kbs/224kbs at a minimum for MP3, or 192kbs AAC along with better hardware support. For now, because its what my SlimX supports, I'd be happiest with 192k/224k MP3s.

    So in conclusion, at this point I lean more towards wanting to buy from eMusic, but the quality issue prevents me from doing so for now. However, I think ITMS has a lot going for it, especially with support for more mainstream bands that a lot of people have been wanting pretty bad, as well as finally using a more modern codec, even though it lacks a bit in terms of hardware support. The DRM of Apple's isn't too bad, but I still prefer having no DRM, just because I have an aversion to having my rights taken away, even if they are only taking a tiny bit away.

    I'm a real music enthusiast, and would likely download several albums a month, making ITMS's ala carte system a little overpriced. However, if I were on a modem, or was more of a 'heard a cool song on the radio and want to download it on impulse' kind of guy, then ITMS would be more attractive.

    Ok, sorry for the long rambling comment.

  7. I admittedly wrote this article before the ITMS was released, but I did a lot of comparisons between between what I hoped the ITMS would offer and what eMusic (and P2P) currently offers.

    The ITMS does most of what I hoped it would do, with one exception, and that's a pretty major exception: I have to repurchase the songs if I lose my copy of the file. Because of that, I'm only going to be buying exclusive music from the ITMS, and everything else I'm going to stick with CDs for.

    But, when it comes to eMusic, there were really two generations of how they handled this:

    With the original eMusic (before they started the emusic unlimited subscription plan), you bought the music, and could download it up to 3 times.

    Then they switched to the subscription plan, at which point, you could just repeatedly download the same songs.

    Either one of these would be better than what the ITMS does, except that when I cancelled my emusic subscription (mainly due to lack of selection), I could no longer re-download the music I bought before they went subscription, even though I had only ever downloaded those songs once! I've written them many angry letters about this, but to no avail.

    And the ITMS even keeps track of what songs I've purchased and I can go review them, so it should be technically possible to allow people to redownload their music. I'd even be okay with a $0.05 or $0.10 fee to redownload a song to cover bandwidth...

    But, I suspect this was probably actually some contractual issue.

    Anyway, right now, neither emusic nor the ITMS allows you to buy rights to music. Instead, they're both still selling bits, and for that reason, I'll stick with CDs. Read my linked article above for the possibilities of a service that sells rights instead of bits.

  8. While it's true that a buck a song isn't a flat rate, it's still a good price because the barrier to entry is low, and that's the main point. Although ITMS has a better selection than competitors, it's still limited enough that many people wouldn't want to be forced to subscribe, yet. Once the range of songs is more complete, I'd be surprised if a subscription didn't become available.

    And another thing regarding selection: No one cares if ITMS has a bunch of indie stuff, and the list some other poster gave of groups he couldn't find is irrelevant. It's not representative. I know a lot of folks like to look down their noses on the tastes of pop culture, but luckily for me and other non-snobs, we're the ones fueling the engine of commerce.

  9. Quote: And another thing regarding selection: No one cares if ITMS has a bunch of indie stuff, and the list some other poster gave of groups he couldn't find is irrelevant. It's not representative.

    I must say I totally disagree with that..

    Irrelevant? That wasn't a contrived example, I just picked the three things on my playlist right now. I'm not being snobbish about it, I have no problem with bands like Fleetwood Mac, REM, etc. It just so happens that my tastes lean towards things often found on indie labels, just as some people's taste leans them more towards bands found on the main labels.

    Also, I might like to point out that the belief that nobody but a few 'hardcores' here and there listen to anything besides the few major labels is due to the fact that nearly all radio stations are owned by a select group of companies who choose exactly what does and does not get played. These people also decide what music gets put on MTV, and what CDs get sold in every Sam Goody nationwide.

    Thus we get a little 'closed circle' of music where music is recorded, then promoted, then sold, by the same companies. You look at the top 40 lists and see nothing except what gets played on the radio and on MTV. That isn't an accident, its called market domination.

    Now, the music can be really good. The label a band is on doesn't make them good or bad, their skill does. However, the thing you have to remember is that while this little ecosystem of major labels/mtv/clearchannel/radio stations/etc is going on and dominating all the major media channels, there is a whole world of music that doesn't have anything to do with the radio, or top 40 lists, or MTV or Sam Goody stores. LOTS of people listen to this music that is on the outside. I bet most people listen to at least a little music that is under the radar, so to speak, of the few major labels, and there are a lot of people who primarily listen to music like that.

    If most of the bands you like are in the circle, then you hear them on the radio, you see them on MTV, and you see them on ITMS. Cool. Thats all well and good, but it might make it so you don't notice all the other music going on outside that circle. People who's tastes put their music choices mostly outside the ecosystem of major media music have benefited greatly from the Internet and computers in general. We aren't restricted to just buying white label vinyl and cheaply pressed small run CDs. Technology means bands can offer music for free on websites, trade prized live shows easily, quickly burn CDs for cheap and easy releases, and get promotion in places far from their home town.

    Why do you think emusic exists? Why do you think it is the success it has been? Clearly, your statement that 'no one cares' about indie stuff is very wrong. Emusic is doing quite well with nothing BUT indie music! There is a market out there that isn't apparent at first glance, but is significant. Significant enough that ITMS's lack of indie music is a downside in my book, and in many other people's books. For many people, that isn't a problem, and the ITMS's success in these few days makes it clear that it isn't a big enough problem to cause them to fail, however, the addition of more indie music, electronic music, jazz, etc, would only add more customers, and wouldn't be an irrelevant measure.

  10. Quote: I know a lot of folks like to look down their noses on the tastes of pop culture, but luckily for me and other non-snobs, we're the ones fueling the engine of commerce.

    One more thing, what do you mean by this? If I buy a CD, I'm supporting capitalism and commerce, regardless of who I buy it from. In fact, if I buy it from a local artist, it could be argued that I'm actually fueling commerce even more than if I bought it from Wal-Mart, because the money will get turned around and sent back into the local economy, rather than getting collected in a far away place.

    Also, I really don't think I'm looking down my nose at anyone else's taste, I'm just saying that my tastes are different from yours. Thats all good! People should have different taste, it keeps things diverse. My point is just that ITMS doesn't represent my tastes, and the tastes of many others (the numbers of who aren't very apparent at first glance, as I discussed in my last post). If it represents your tastes, then thats great, because you now have more choices at your disposal.

    I admit that a little anti-pop-culture snobbery exists, but I don't think I'm perpetuating that. I'd prefer if you not toss the accusations around so much, in fear of creating a sort of anti-anti-pop-culture snobbery, which would be very unfortunate.

    The other possibility is that you were being sarcastic and that I'm just looking silly right about now. 😉

  11. Not to go off on too much of an indie vs. majors tangent here, but usually when I go to buy music, I'm looking for things that aren't being played continually on the radio. After all, if I just wanted to hear radio hits, I'd (duh) just turn on the radio. On the other hand, if I want to hear the new Yo La Tengo album, unless I get lucky tuning into the local college station, I've got to buy (or download) it myself. Emusic does a better job of scratching that itch. If you're looking for Eminem records, you've already got plenty of opportunities to hear him.

  12. Not being sarcastic at all, but I was exaggerating to make my point with less effort. However, on reskimming your post, I agree with just about everything you said except the cross platform snipe, but I won't go all off-topic on it.

  13. Indies vs. major labels is a pretty central point for a lot of people (including most of my friends). I spent all week being excited about ITMS, but in the end, I haven't bought a single track, because there wasn't a single one that interested me that I didn't already have.

    Michael, I can see what you meant to say with the comment about "driving commerce", but the problem is that it's the other way around: the reason Apple has the major labels on their service is because it's the biggest bang for their buck. With the exception of a few artists like the Beatles, they have all the popular groups that make up some overwhelming portion of the sales in the music business. Your statement was inaccurate: my CD collection of about 300 CDs dwarfs that of most of my friends', which indicates that I'm at least making a splash in the fuel tank of commerce (ugh, pushing that metaphor a little too far) -- and yet I would be able to find only about 5% of those artists on ITMS. Generally, people who listen to indie bands, electronic artists, jazz music, and other such non-mainstream styles are committed to music (you have to be, or else you wouldn't be able to find the music) and willing to spend more money on their music collections.

    I suppose it isn't worth arguing, because it's going to come down to a pissing match, but it does seem strange to me that as someone who is a mac user, who runs a blog with its own domain name, and whose blog is an obscure programming reference, you would be willing to so blithely dismiss the value of non-mainstream tastes (musically and OS-wise).

  14. Joel, if that last comment was directed at me and not Michael, then I certainly assure you I'm not "blithely dismissing" anyone's taste in music. In fact, indie bands and whatnot look to be coming to the iTunes Music Store, and I welcome it! Why? Because perhaps it will allow people to "get into" indie music more often by passing around those itms:// links to albums they like.

    But the fact remains that right now, the music that most people buy, listen to, and download is that same 90% of music controlled by "the big five." Apple would have been stupid to ignore that! They did the right thing.

    I am a Mac user. I've got a blog with its own domain name referring to a Cocoa printf-wannabe, but I'm blithely dismissing nobody.

  15. Heh, I got you and Michael mixed up -- sorry about that, I'm a newcomer to this site. But you seem to hold similar viewpoints, so my comments are directed in that general vicinity.

    In any case, I must again politely disagree. The big five don't control anywhere near 90% of the music out there. Perhaps 90% of the *sales*, which is why I'll certainly agree that it was wise to bring them on board before anyone else. Quantity and diversity (and even quality, but let's not go there) are a different story.

    I'm glad I read this discussion -- it made me think more critically about ITMS, and it provided me with details on the eMusic service, which I'm now seriously considering as an alternative.

  16. eMusic vs. iMusic

    NSLog: "Someone published an article called Why eMusic Gets It as a
    direct comparison between eMusic and the iTunes Music Store (iMusic for
    the purpose of a funnier title). Point by point, let's have a look at
    the issues raised."

  17. Why do you think Erik and I "hold similar viewpoints"? Just because we both like the ITMS?! I can't really tell myself.

    Anyway, as for my friends and I, we couldn't care less about major labels versus indie, and I suggest that we are a large majority. I personally prefer it when the majority agrees with me; it makes life easier.

    I didn't mean to say anything other than what I did when I said "we're the ones fueling the engine of commerce." To explicate: Apple chose to use their limited resources to contract for music by the major labels 'cause me and my pals are the largest bloc of voters where dollars are votes. Yay, us! I hope they continue in that vein.

    I hope they spend about 1 minute of effort tracking down indie music for every 9 minutes they spend on major label music. Luckily for indie fans, that 1 minute will probably be quite productive. Indies won't be demanding stiff terms, and it's not much skin off Apple's teeth to put up more files. Plus, Apple's marketers can then promote their large catalog.

    Anyway, I don't blithely dismiss non-mainstream tastes. I thoughtfully dismiss non-mainstream tastes. And, actually, that's not really true: I just dislike when minority tastes gain disproportionate influence because of that minority's passionate activism. Such activism only works because of our damnable penchant to root for the underdog.

    PS - I use a Mac only because it’s better. I reject any gratuitous anti-establishment associations that anyone tries to attach to me because of it.

  18. Competition Is A Wonderful, Wonderful Thing

    I've been an Emusic subscriber since 2000... I think their monthly service, at $9.99 has been one of the best deals in existence for the music fan who wants access to music by a huge quantity of good (if not necessarily well-known) artists.

  19. the article is gone now, replaced by:

    Why EMusic no longer gets it (and Apple is getting closer)

    UPDATE 2003-10-09: EMusic just radically changed their terms of service in such a way that invalidates the points made my original article. I'm updating this version to reflect the new terms.