You must access eMusic though your Web browser. To grab and burn songs, you can either download an additional utility called the Download Manager, use a download manager you already have, or just download tracks directly through the browser. However, if you go with the latter method, you must disable eMusic's Download Manager in your account preferences. Then, files are saved with an unknown file extension, which you must then change to .mp3. This can be a confusing process for novices.
On the site, you can search by artist, album, track, label, or composer, or search one of 12 genres including Alternative/Punk, Country/Folk, Electronic and Jazz. The front page also displays New and Noteworthy albums, PowerCharts (the day's top albums), Columns, and selected member playlists. eMusic has assembled a team of well-known music critics and curators to provide album picks and reviews, and to write columns promoted with taglines like Funkadelic Sound: The Genius of George ClintonPhilip. The eMusic Dozen articles provide some rather useful editorial information, as the authors pick 12 of their favorite albums for particular themes ("Music for Sundays") and subgenres ("Gospel for Rockers, Punkers, and Other Sinners"). The editors' snarky style makes browsing a pleasure while taking the musical experience beyond just browsing and downloading. The Dozens can be accessed through the genre pages or via the shortcut drop-down menu. All of the editorial content is also gathered under the "Magazine" section of the site for easy access. All the tunes available through eMusic are legitimately licensed from record labels and artists, so you don't have to worry about a midnight visit from the authorities. The last time we checked, eMusic carried 1.5 million high-quality MP3 files from 4,600 independent music labels, many of which cannot be found at competing online music stores. However, they're all indie, so forget about Britney Spears, 50 Cent, and Madonna. However, we were able to find more than a handful of albums by popular artists, such as The White Stripes, Johnny Cash, The Prodigy, and Moby. The collection is most fully filled-out in the rock genre, but eMusic also offers a fantastic assortment of older jazz and blues and a wide range of electronic music, as well as a surprisingly large selection of world music. When you find a tempting song, you can preview a 30-second sample, in both QuickTime and Windows Media, or download it on the spot. One timesaving option we love is the ability to download an entire album at once using the button below the album's song list. We also found the Save For Later button quite useful; since tracks aren't carried over to the next month if you don't reach your limit, it's handy to always have a selection of tracks on hand to make sure you hit the max for the month.
eMusic is a pleasure to use and navigating its listings couldn't be any easier. Once you've selected a genre, the service offers a variety of ways you can browse music. You can sort by subgenre, view Editors' Picks, or use the more traditional artist/album/label method (plus many more). Community features have been upgraded to reflect the musical passions common in the indie scene. For example, users can view other subscribers' top artist choices as well as the top fans for a specific artist. There is also a user review section as well as an online five-star rating system. Ancillary information such as Similar Artists, Roots and Influences, and Followers are presented in a tidy and accessible manner. This is an essential part of discovering new (and unfamiliar) music. In terms of tech support, eMusic gets average marks. The Web site's nicely organized, well-written FAQs address basic technical issues, billing, and general subscription questions in an easy-to-understand and friendly manner. You can also search the Help section and contact eMusic using an online form. Representatives answered our e-mail fairly quickly. But there's no telephone support, and if you have an involved question, you'll probably find yourself wishing you could call and talk to a human.