The big Apple press conference a-go-go today got me thinking about something I've been wanting to blog abut for a while now. That being alternatives to the iTunes Music Store. While I've spent a lot of money* at the iTMS, I've found a few other download services that meet my needs a little better.
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.