Calculate your chances...negative...negative...negative!
Sunday, September 30, 2007
First off, I got someone's old tape of a couple MST3K episodes. Beginning of the End and the MST3K Hour version of War of the Colossal Man. That was kinda cool. Also got the old Rush Through the Camera Lens video which is a collection of some cheesetastic old Rush videos. I find this stuff much more interesting than concert films.
The thing I'm most excited about is the laserdisc set of Happy Harmonies I scored. This is a set of early stuff from Hugh Harmon and Rudolf Ising who started at Disney and moved on to establish Warner's animation studio. These are all toons from the 30s and early 40s, which are some of my favorites, and this set is probably worth a little more than the $3 I paid for it. There doesn't seem to be any DVD plans for this stuff, so whoo-hoo.
I also put the finishing touch on my red Vistalites, with an early 70s Ludwig logo for the bass drum head. Using the old head as a template, I managed to place the sticker exactly as off center as the original. Hmm...didn't realize that until after the fact, of course.
Also, I bought a set of Protection Racket Nutcases for the Vistas. It was kind of a blind purchase, as I wasn't able to find much info about them, but the company seems to get good marks for their high end stuff. Bags at the budget level tend to be fairly dismal and these seem to be quite a bit better than any thing else in their price range. (I got the set for $130.)
What is different about them is they don't zip up. They have a drawstring at the top and a cover that buckles down over the top. What's nice about this is I can pull the strings tighter and they fit my standard depth drums nicely. (It's hard to find cases for standard depth drums as hardly anyone makes them in a non-custom line anymore.)
While I haven't gigged them out yet, I think these are going to work fine. I still wouldn't want to drop one, but I just need something to keep them from getting scuffed up in transport. Plus, I switch cars a lot and cases can be a little rough on seats.
I have two minor complaints. One, the bass is rather hard to get in the bag. This may just be a problem with any bag at this price point. I made it work, but I felt like I had to wrestle it a bit to get it in there. The other thing is that the bags are pretty ugly. There's a garish logo on the top that I'm not crazy about. Oh well.
Other than that, recording went well. We have one more track to record next weekend and then hopefully we're done. I gotta start building a new web site, so I suppose I should start thinking about that now.
Oh, I'm sitting in on the IndianapolisMusic.net tomorrow night. So be looking out for that.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Friday, September 28, 2007
Yongary, in correct aspect ratio, truly remastered! The only thing missing is the Korean language track, which is apparently lost for good, sadly enough.
Warching through this, my original review stands. (You can read it here: linkie.)
The weird thing is, in widescreen, the effects look even cheesier, the whole thing looks cheaper and the bleeding rectum death scene, even more disturbing. Still I think you can safely throw away your Alpha DVDs of this film.
(BTW, the flip side, Konga, is a British King Kong rip off that I still think sucks even if it does star Alfred from the Batman TV series as the heavy. This appears to be the exact same as the previously released DVD, even down to th non-anamorphic 1.66 transfer.)
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Tonight I polished all the tom lugs and rims with Brasso. Man, I hate that stuff. Works wonders but almost knocks me out every time even working in a very well ventilated area.
The lugs are slightly pitted, as you'd expect. Still, they cleaned up better than I expected. I'm becoming more and more convinced these drums were under water at some point. The amount of rust and the scummy film on all the chrome is a giveaway.
Right now, I need five of the gaskets that go beneath the lugs and heads. The 12" tom is ready to go. I have the suspension mount I'm going to use and I think I have tension rods that will work. It's the 13" that I'm waiting on. Of course, I still need badges (yes, I do need stinking badges) to finish the job correctly.
The bass drum is still a mess. The two screws I showed earlier still aren't budging. I have some Naval Jelly I'm going to try next, but if that doesn't work, it's the Dremel tool to those screw heads. The bad thing about that is, it will bring the number of large lugs I need up to five, but if that's the way it has to be, then so be it.
I still need the correct T-rods and claws as well. I have some that I could use, but the claws are way too wide and they're going to look really funky. Still, it'll do for right now, as I'm trying to to this as cheaply as possible, so I'm going to have to be patient for the parts I need.
My goal for now is getting those rack toms ready to roll so I can use them with the red kit. I've been playing the red drums and I don't know how I like the single headed toms yet. I'll have to hear them with the band, but they're different if nothing else. If I had a whole row of them, I could do the big fill from In the Air Tonight, but alas, I don't.
So that's my status. The before and after on this set are going to be dramatic. While the Fibes kit I used to own had more structural damage, these were the worst looking acrylics I've owned and they have cleaned up far better than I hoped. If only there was a market for this...
Now playing: Panda Bear - Bros (Album Version)
Sunday, September 23, 2007
I'll spare you the long version of the story, but the short version goes like this: I'm in Sam Ash talking to Ivan, who has been helping me out with my e-drums. I mention that I'd just finished fixing up a Vistalite kit and he mentioned they had this kit in the back that was pretty beat up but the manager might let go cheap just to get them out of there.
So, he brings out this tom and it looks pretty sad. But my interest is piqued. He gets a manager and we go in back and all have a laugh at this disheveled heap of drums and the absurd price tag on it. (Apparently, someone in guitars bought this and gave the guy way too much money. Someone else seriously thought they could get $700 for what I'm about to show you.) A bit of haggling and a little time away to think about it, and I've got another drum kit for the princely sum of $75.
Anyway, let me show you what I got:
Let's start with the positive. This kit, for whatever reason, had an Acrolite snare with it. Honestly, I'm surprised no one pulled this and put it out by itself. This was also my ace in the hole as this drum is in great shape and is easily worth $75 alone. Plus, I've always wanted one.
Here's the mounted toms, a 12" and a 13". Obviously, both are without heads, but I did get the rims. The 12" has some spider cracks and both drums are scratched and filthy. There's a grimy film on both that I just can't place.
Close up of the 12":
So, these two are a challenge, but here's the real problem child of the bunch:
Where should I begin with this one? It's missing three lugs, some of the others are missing swivel nuts. Half of the T-rods and claws are wrong. The tom mount on tom is probably stripped. It's missing a leg and there's a crack from one of the leg holes. One of the hoops is wrong and the other one is painted over. And inside...
Ugly stuff, but it gets worse...
Two lugs are rusted in place. Did someone scoop this drum up from White River?
There's also two huge Velcro stickers inside I have no idea how I'm going to remove. Moving on...
Hello! Who's this? Are you lost, little Sonor Force 2001 floor tom? No. Some confused soul thought you belonged with this kit. I'm a little skeptical about this one, as 16" amber floor toms can go for some money on eBay. I have to wonder if someone inside the store didn't pull a switcheroo, as I don't even know how one would acquire a random Sonor floor tom. (Know anyone who needs one? I'll cut them a good deal.)
So, anyway, I played around with them a little today. Stripped the shells and did the Weld-On thing on the bass drum. I'm trying to soak those lugs in 3 in 1 oil, hoping the two stragglers will break loose.
I did get the toms cleaned up and to my surprise, they turned out pretty nice. Here's a comparison shot of the clean 12" and the dirty 13". It's kind of hard to see, but I think you can get the idea:
Not flawless, but the cleaned up 12" looks worlds better than the 13". I took a more radical approach to cleaning these up than I did my red kit. Since I figured I didn't have much to lose, I went straight from a cleaning swipe with Novus 1 to polishing with Novus 3. I really only used 2 when I'd buffed as much as I was going to and was getting ready to shine them up.
This approach worked pretty well. While I wasn't able to get every last scratch out, I wasn't expecting to either. I was more curious to see what I could get done than anything else. And I'm really pleased with the final results:
Right now, I'm focusing on the toms as it looks like they're going to turn out well. I've got RIMS mounts coming (again, not so much for sustain, but I hate the 70s Ludwig mounts and I won't drill the shells.) The internal mufflers and logo badges are missing. I'll probably try to score new badges, but I wouldn't use the mufflers anyway, so I'll just leave those be.
Ultimately, I'd like to find a matching floor tom and have another kit. I'm not prepared to pay eBay prices though. (The 16" amber tom is one of John Bonham's drums, so there's a premium on it.) If nothing else, I can use these with the red drums I already have and while they're a bit rougher, hopefully I can get them close to looking as nice as those red ones.
So, I've got a hot date with Brasso soon. (Brasso is my least favorite chemical I use. The stuff is just so noxious, I can't be in a big enough area to not feel like I'm huffing the stuff.) If nothing else, I'm going to have a couple of toms and a snare out of this deal. Starting a new job tomorrow, so I probably won't have time to play around with this for a little while though.
Now playing: Jimmy Woods Sextet - Pazmuerte
OK, now back to the regularly scheduled rants about the music industry and drum nerd-ery.
PS, check out the Cocaine Wolfs. Holly cow. Like Thin Lizzy? Like Motorhead? Like the Stooges? You love these guys. They tore it up at the Melody Inn last night with Bible of the Devil and Devil to Pay, both of whom were also excellent. A fun night was had by all.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
So it's the first acoustic kit I want to talk about right now.
I'd been thinking about changing up my sound for a while. See I play an old round badge Gretsch kit, which I love. I've had it about ten years and I honestly thought it was the last set of drums I was ever going to buy.
If you know anything about drums, you know those drums have a beautiful warm tone that just sings. The record beautifully and when you're playing them, they just sound great.
The problem is, I play in a loud guitar rock band (Svetlana) and while those drums sound fantastic on our recordings, they kind of get lost live. Part of the reason Gretsch never successfully made the transition to the rock era was that their drums just don't have the oomph to cut through loud amps.
Specifically, the 20" bass just isn't cutting it. Yeah, I could play around with different heads and tuning, but frankly that would rune the tone that was the whole reason I bought the kit in the first place.
After I bought the Gretsch kit, I bought a second kit to knock around. It was an old Fibes Crystalite acrylic kit. These drums were in pretty sad shape when I got them, but I fixed them up pretty nicely and, to my surprise, I really liked the way they sounded.
The big difference between those sets was the shells. Whereas the Gretsch are some magical mixture of maple and "other select hardwoods", the Fibes were acrylic. In addition to being transparent (which is a really cool look on stage) the drums were loud, cutting and very neutral sounding. Pretty much everything my Gretsch drums weren't.
I ended up selling the Fibes to my friend Jon because, at the time, I wasn't playing them and I had no where to store them. They were living at his studio anyway, so it only made sense that he owned them.
Fast forward 5 or 6 years and here I am. For some reason I've got acrylic drums on the mind again as I'd already owned a set and knew they'd solve my issues. Plus, they are really fun to play as they look so cool.
Specifically, I was thinking about Ludwig Vistalites. When I was growing up, these were the drums I wanted because John Bonham played a kit. Ever seen Song Remains the Same? Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.
Ludwig reissued those specific drums a few years ago, along with some smaller kits, but the fact of the matter is, I wasn't looking to spend that kind of money. And, as much as I'd love the Bonham kit, I really don't want to transport a 26" bass drum. (I once had a 24" prior to the Gretsch and when I sold my Chevy Malibu for a Camry I couldn't fit it in the car!)
Anyway, I'm up at Guitar Center looking for heads and what do I see back around by the used kits?
What a coincidence!
I check them out (not as well as I thought, more on that later) and sleep on it. $500 seems fair as they're not in bad shape. Even though I just bought an electronic kit, I didn't spring for the top of the line V-drums kit I was eying, so I'm still $3000 under my original budget.
Now, I'd done a lot of work with the Fibes set I'd owned prior, so I know how to get these things looking great. See, the acrylics are notorious for scratching and cracking. Scratches aren't a terrible thing, unless they are gouges. Some Novus Plastic polish and elbow grease and you're good to go.
Cracks are a drag though. They don't affect the sound really, my Fibes kit with it's multiple cracks (and ham fisted repair jobs) was a testament to that. But, they can get worse and they do mar visuals of the drums a bit.
Well, I thought I was in the clear until I got home and checked the floor tom again.
D'OH!!! How did I miss that?!?
Ok, it's not a deal breaker, but it is a disappointment. Still, a little time with Weld-On 3 and I fell pretty confident it's not going anywhere.
So, about a week later and here's what they look like:
Here's what I did to this kit:
Stripped the drums. Polished all the chrome with Brasso. Polished the shells with Novus 1,2,3 (three step process). RIMS mounted the toms and replaced the godawful 70s Ludwig mounts and holder with modern stuff. New heads.
One thing about this kit that's kind of odd, those mounted toms are single head. The floor tom is double. I can't find this configuration in any of the catalogs. At first I thought it was pieced together, but the serial numbers are all very close. Then I considered it could be a Quadra Plus kit missing two toms, but the toms have regular Ludwig tom mounts rather than the clip style they used on that kit. It's possible this could have been a custom order or who knows what the story is?
Now to get really drum geeky, I went with Evans heads on the drums. I used those on the old Fibes and they sounded great. All the toms have G2 two ply heads which gives just a little dampening but still sounds fairly open.
Can I tell you how much I miss the Gretsch die cast hoops though? Geez, I forgotten how hard tuning drums is with regular triple flanged hoops. Heh.
I also used a G2 on the resonant side of the bass, which seems weird, but works perfectly with th EQ4 I have on the batter. I don't feel I need any extra dampening on the bass because of this head combo.
Of course, I've only played this by myself in the basement, so we'll see what it sounds like on stage with the band. Still, I really like what I'm hearing so far. And if I decide I don't like the sound of those single head toms, well, let's just say I have options I'll discuss in a later blog post. (No, it's not drilling new lugs. I'm opposed to adding holes to drums.)
Now playing: Aghora - Transfiguration
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
In the 70s some bright soul made a discovery. Instead of spending time and money trying to promote dozens of records by dozens of acts, it would be easier to focus on a few huge releases every year that would be likely to sell in the millions. Thus, the blockbuster album was born.
Dark Side of the Moon. Hotel California. Rumors. Saturday Night Fever. All the way up to The Wall. These records were just a few of the decade's huge sellers. The Platinum album was born, which became multi-Platinum. Numbers like these weren't even thought of in the 60s.
Then something happened. Among other factors, disco went bust and popped the bubble the record industry was riding. Blockbusters weren't selling as they once did. Sure, the industry was still absolutely rancid with money, but the arrows on those projection charts kept point up while reality was leveling off and going down.
The problem wasn't that the industry was crumbling. Far from it. The problem was, everyone kept looking over their shoulders, back at the 70s. Back then it looked like the sky was the limit and no one was willing to believe they'd reached the top of the hill and were rolling back down.
So, they kept trying to rejigger the old formula. Sometimes it worked and they could cough up Thriller or Born in the USA. But even a mega-hit like Thriller wasn't enough to satiate the appetite of what was now the "big six" record labels.
They jumped on the compact disc bandwagon, coaxing consumers to re-buy all their old albums in "perfect sound forever" rather than looking forward and developing new artists. They killed off the single and forced people to buy entire albums.
By the end of the decade, the offerings from the major labels had become so stale that independent labels once again rose up and became dominant. This time around, the big companies weren't so slow to adapt to the new music, buying up pretty much every band or label that had an asking price.
But something was different this time around. The music had become more categorized and segmented. The audiences became smaller and more specialized. Someone into hip-hop probably wasn't going to buy the new Nirvana album. And though you did have your Jagged Little Pills and Cracked Rear Views, these were much fewer and farther between and acts tended not to sustain their marketability through follow up albums.
Meanwhile, rather than either accepting the 70s as an aberration or trying to discover new artists people would want to buy, the blame game started. First it was "home taping is killing the industry". Then it was the DAT will kill the industry. Then it was used CDs. Now it is mp3 and file sharing. It's always someone else's fault other than the companies putting out records no one wants to buy.
There's a phrase you usually hear in conjunction with "investment opportunities" advertised on talk radio. "Past performance is no guarantee of future results." in reality, the statement can apply to a lot of things in life. For if there's one thing I've learned in 32 years, there aren't too many sure bets, especially when it comes to the pocket book.
It seems this lesson was lost on the "big four" major labels.
Rather than looking at the 70s as a very good decade when a lot of factors came together and made a lot of people a lot of money, it seems the recording industry saw that time as the beginning of a period of endless growth. I'm no business major, but I don't see how this thinking is anywhere near realistic.
If you look at the 70s, it's easy to see that things were going to top out eventually. There's only a finite number of people who can buy your product, for one thing. For another, once the economy slows down, nonessentials like entertainment are some of the first things people cut out of their budget.
Above and beyond that, the music industry got infatuated with it's own success. Part of the reason disco caught the public's imagination was that it was something new. But the big labels seem to have forgotten how to create anything new. Because you burped out an Eagles record in 1974, doesn't mean you can keep trying to do things that way and see the same sales as you did.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Suing every file sharer from coast to coast isn't going to change the fact that the industry needs to get over it's sense of entitlement to huge profits and get back to trying to put out new and interesting music if it wants to survive.
Sidenote: I do believe mp3 sharing is hurting the industry, but I also believe it's their own fault. After forcing CDs on consumers, they killed off the single and turned albums into big singles (one or two good tracks and a dozen mediocre ones) while jacking up the price. The early days of Napster were, in my opinion, a direct response to this. By the time the industry decided to adopt the new technology for their own use rather than fight it, a generation of kids had grown up with illegal downloading and weren't going to pay 99 cents a track (with DRM restrictions) for music all too easy to acquire for free.
Friday, September 14, 2007
I won't sugar coat this. Losing a big label like Epitaph is a bad thing for eMusic. Not necessarly a "reconsider your subscription" thing, but it is unfortunate and the reason for the withdraw seems to be part of a bigger trend.
According to David Pakman, eMusic pres, Epitaph is leaving because they want eMusic to charge 99 cents a track like Apple. Now I'll leave the question of is the Epitaph catalog worth 99 cents a track up to you, but here's something that I see happening over and over with labels (and you could even throw the NBC/Universal standoff with Apple in this mix) that just flies in the face of what little I know about business and logic.
First off, if you have a product that is selling to a diminishing number of people, wouldn't it make more sense to lower the cost? Or, at the very least, keep the cost consistent, not raise it? Yet, here is this situation where they want more for their tracks when the industry as a whole is slowly going under. Hell, I read the other day FYE is raising their catalog CD prices to $19.99! It's almost like these people are trying to kill the industry themselves.
However, the big one that always gets me is kind of implied in this action by Epitaph. If X number of people are willing to pay Y for your music, then an equal number (or at least enough to prevent a loss) will be willing to pay Y plus Z for your music. I'm not genius, but I have a really hard time believing this is so.
With a service like eMusic, the cost is low enough that you don't have to be worried about taking a chance on new music. You could never collect statistics on such a thing, but I can tell you from my own experience, I'm much more willing to take a chance on something for 30 some odd cents a track than I would be at 99.
Sure, the people who are die hards will likely follow Epitaph to Apple and pay those prices, but in this environment, why would you be willing to bet on that number? To break it down another way, what is better, selling a lot of something at a lower cost, or selling fewer or something at a higher cost?
Now this is starting to get into the whole "long tail" thing and all the new economics stuff I don't claim to understand. I guess the bottom line for me is, I'm not a gambling man. If I was running the show, I'd probably stay with the lower price and current numbers rather than assuming a higher price would either keep a consistent number of customers or that the price increase would offset any loss of customers.
(Sidenote: Kudos to Epitaph for at least announcing they are leaving the service in October. Most labels just pack up shop with no warning leaving people who were planning on downloading tracks high and dry.)
UPDATE: and now they're gone. WTF? I thought it was nice they were giving people a heads up, but now it appears they've pulled everything already. Oh well, hope you got what you wanted subscribers.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I'm going to start my series on legal download services by talking about the one I've used the most. eMusic is, according to their own statistics, the second largest download service behind iTunes. Like the other services I'm profiling, they offer DRM free MP3s from independent labels. Subscriptions start at $9.99 a month with the per track price coming in around 26-33 cents, depending on your subscription plan.
One thing I should menation about eMusic is your subscription plan gives you 30-75 downloads a month. What you don't use, doesn't roll over, which is kind of a drag. The interesting thing about their plan is, each track is one credit. this can make eMusic a great value if you're into jazz or classical where the tracks tend to be long but a bad deal if you're downloading punk or hip-hop with lots of short tracks.
You can either load tracks one at a time off the page or use the download manager and download an entire album at a time. On your profile page is a list of all the music you've downloaded and, providing the album is still available, you can download your music as many times as you want.
I find eMusic's catalog to be just about perfect for the kind of music I prefer. Nearly all the largest independent rock labels are on board, most of the best underground hip-hop labels are available and there's tons of jazz and avantgarde. Since the first of the year, they've also added Greensleeves records, which turned eMusic into a reggae powerhouse as well.
There have been some defections from the service as well. The biggest I can thing of was Ryko who left in the time I've been a member. There have been several smaller labels leaving this year, many complaining they were only receiving "peanuts" from eMusic. But it seems like for ever label leaving, at least one more quality label comes on board to replace them.
One of the things I really like about eMusic is they have attempted to set it up to give a sense of community. In addition to regular columns written by respected music writers, you can peruse the downloads of other users, read user reviews and check recommended listening lists. I've discovered a lot of great music this way and with the download cost being so low, I can afford to take a chance on something new.
The site itself is fairly accessible. Searching for music is pretty easy and you can even search by label, a feature I like a lot. However, it's a bit difficult to find another user on the site. A lot of people I know have joined, but even if I know their user name, it's difficult to find their profile page.
One more thing I like about eMusic is all the free tracks. There's a daily free track and then every so often label samplers pop up. Recently, I downloaded free samplers from Oneida and a modern funk comp with Sharon Jones and stuff like that. Granted, it's not always stuff I'm into, but there's been a lot of stuff I have really dug.
eMusic isn't for everyone. Just check their message boards to see all the people bemoaning the lack of Top 40/major label stuff. But if you'd rather buy your music at the hip independent record store, where the people running the place are pretty knowledgeable and can help you find some cool stuf to listen to, eMusic is probably a place you'll dig a lot. I've been a subscriber for several years and I really don't have much to complain about.
(And if you want a free trial subscription, message me and let me know. I get freebies for giving these things out. ;))
Now playing: Squirrel Bait - Too Close To The Fire
Monday, September 10, 2007
OK, I'll get to the music downloading stuff in a bit. I've been transferring videos to DVD for the wife and I'm in the middle of an American Bandstand marathon. Whoo hoo.
Now, AB is kind of fun to watch, at least when everyone is dancing. The "performances" are some of the most low budget lip syncs one could hope to see. (Side note: there was a great John Cougar bit from '80 where his band is clearly taking the piss on the lip syncing. The keyboard player has an accordion, the bassist is playing a doghouse like an electric and the drummer grabs a girl and starts dancing in the middle of a song.)
The thing I don't get about AB is how in the world did Dick Clark endure as a host/cultural icon? The guy really doesn't show much personality or excitement, his interview skills are kind of weak and he really seems to be suppressing bewilderment at a lot of the music featured on the show. (Though to be fair, how in the heck did Loverboy become huge? Seriously, inquiring minds want to know.)
Right now, I'm watching Clark in a cream leisure suit, collar to the shoulders, introducing John Travolta. He's sitting in the middle of a bunch of kids who look young enough to be his kids maybe. Even with the sound off, it just looks awkward, probably more so without the sound.
The only thing I can figure is young Dick Clark made some very smart financial decisions (and possibly some powerful friends, if one believes the theories as to why he never got nabbed in the payola scandals of the '50s.) His "world's oldest teenager" bit had much more to do with vertical integration from the companies Clark owns than it did any real "finger on the pulse" ability on his part.
Don't get me wrong. I totally understand the importance of Bandstand, at least up to the time MTV really started rolling. The concept behind the show may not have been original, but if the decision to take it national was Clark's, he's a genius for that alone. I'm not trying to deny AB as a show or whatever. It's just Dick Clark strikes me a lot more Pat Boone than Elvis Presley and after about six hours of non-stop AB action, you kind of realize, hey, Dick Clark is kind of bland.
PS- did Dick Clark own a piece of the Spinners? I swear, they are on EVERY episode of this show I have on tape, regardless of if they are even culturally relevant or not.
Now playing: The Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound - D Brown
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Friday, September 07, 2007
Garage Sale Blogging
Originally uploaded by CaptainWrong
You know you want to come to our garage sale and buy all my CDs. You
know you want 'em.
1811 Fisher in Speedway. Literally on the corner or Crawfordsville &
Come get some! NOW!!!!!!!!
Sent from my iPhone
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Specifically, there are three places I've paid to download from: eMusic, Audio Lunchbox and Amie Street. Each has it's strengths and weaknesses. First off, all three offer DRM free downloads in the mp3 format. Though there is this movement to paint Steve Jobs as the patron saint of DRM free music, all these places were doing it before Apple and all three offer it across the board, not just from one label**.
All of these services use a web based interface and obviously the tracks you download will work with any mp3 player. For the most part, these tracks are encoded at a higher bit rate than the normal iTunes download as well. And, for the most part, they are considerably cheaper than buying music through Apple.
There are also several negatives all have in common. For instance, you won't find major label music at any of these services. None of these places offer video, if that matters to you. Also, all three use some sort of subscription or credit purchasing program rather than an ala cart, buy as you go set up (although Audio Lunchbox does allow you to buy tracks for 99 cents a pop if you wish.)
As I get time, I'll profile each of these services, starting with eMusic where I've been a subscriber the longest. My reason for writing this is twofold. First, I really like these services. eMusic especially got me over my distaste for legal downloads and has exposed me to a ton of music I'd otherwise never heard of. Secondly, I just want people to realize that there are alternatives to the iTunes Music Store and even BitTorrent and P2P that won't put a huge hurt on your wallet and might even introduce you to something you wouldn't have heard otherwise.
With that, I will mention one thing. If your listening tastes are pretty much exclusively top 40 mainstream, there isn't going to be much for you here. Although a lot of indie artists are breaking through, you're not going to find Justin, Fergie or Fiddy on these services. However, if your tastes run a bit left of mainstream, if you're ready to dive in to classic jazz or if you are just adventurous, you're going to find a lot to like.
Now playing: Elvin Jones - Love Supreme
*actually I scammed a shameful amount of free downloads from an Army related promo. I've probably only spent $100 at the iTMS, but I'm sure I'm close to a grand in actual amount of music downloaded. Pure insanity and I should be ashamed of myself.
** Interestingly enough, I've read an interview with someone from Netwerk who said they have been trying to offer their music DRM free through Apple and were told the DRM was Apple's policy, even if the labels didn't want it. Apparently that's not the case anymore, at least if you are a major label as the indies still can't offer DRM free music through iTMS.