"Indie music lover's dream come true"4.5 starson by timabouttown
Pros: Unmatched indie selection, great writing, higest-quality encoding, referral bonuses, low cost per track, NO DRM!!!
Cons: US-focused licensing...uhm, that's about it
Summary: Certainly a great deal of "independent" music has been created by artists on major labels, with Bob Dylan, Sonic Youth and Radiohead as just the smalllest handful of examples.
Emusic is home to a specific variety of independent music, that distributed by independent *labels.* Some of the music here should have been major commercial hits, and in a universe where the good guys always win, that might have happened. And indeed, a number of emusic artists have had hits of varying sizes, such as White Stripes, Moby, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Bill Evans.
Anybody who pays attention to venues like XM radio, MTV 2 (especially shows like Subterranean), and the late, lamented 120 Minutes will find the kind of music here that other sites might barely touch on, but is here in spades: Bloc Party, Ambulance LTD, The Fall, Yo La Tengo, Mission of Burma, Pixes and solo Frank Black, Thievery Corporation, Daniel Lanois, Neko Case, Go Betweens, Bauhaus, Cocteau Twins, Mogwai, Big Star, Pernice Brothers, Belle and Sebastian, and Underworld, to name just a few.
(Having dropped Frank Black's name, it's worth mentioning that the first emusic release -- and arguably the first legal MP3 title for sale online -- was Frank's first solo album. The one-millionth emusic track was "Here Comes Your Man," from an emusic-only live release from The Pixies reunion tour.)
I mentioned independent labels, so it's worth mentioning a few of those as well. 4AD has been one of the most important post-punk labels, home to artists as diverse as the aforementioned Pixies, Cocteau Twins and Bauhaus, as well as Mojave 3, Lush, Throwing Muses/Tonya Donnelly/Kristen Hersh, Red House Painters, Mountain Goats and many others.
Matador is home of Mission of Burma, Mogwai and Yo La Tengo mentioned above, as well as Cat Power, New Pornographers, Pavement, Interpol, Guided by Voices, Soft Boys, Arab Strap, and The Lyres.
Ninja Tune is one of the most important downtempo/electronica/trip-hop labels, with such artists as Amon Tobin, DJ Food, Mr. Scruff and others. A recent addition, they're adding more of their catalog all the time.
Global Underground is another new addition still loading their catalog. As one of the most important DJ/trance labels, some of their highlights include mixes from Sasha, Nick Warren and Steve Lawler, as well as artist releases from UNKLE and Traffik among others. (Fans of dance music should also check out label-oriented mixes such as Afterhours II and GU10.)
SST is arguably the most important American punk label -- it's impossible to imagine underground music without Black Flag, Minutemen, and Bad Brains to name just a few artists from this amazing label.
I mention the writing: music's editor in chief is Michael Azerrad, author of Come As You Are (the first Nirvana bio) and Our Band Could Be Your Life. He's one of many outstanding observers of a wide variety of musical life who writes regular columns providing overviews of musical movements as well as guided tours through the emusic collection.
Not mentioned in cnet's review is emusic's offer of annual billing. Pay for an entire year at once and tracks go as low as 17 cents each. Encourage a friend to join, and get 50 free downloads added to your account. I've done that a few times, bringing my rate down to near 12 cents a track.
It's especially worth noting that these are VBR files, some topping the 300 mbit/sec mark. There's nobody anywhere online offering quality anything like this.
The one "con" I noted isn't unique to emusic, but worth noting for international customers -- a significant-enough handful of the titles here are licensed for American distribution only. Sorry, that's just the way it is. For Americans, though, there aren't any cons...other than the obvious lack of major-label artists. I find that supplementing my emusic with a little Napster (soon to be Urge, I suspect) is plenty to more than fill my prodigious musical appetites.
Cnet mentions some of emusic's unique ways to hook you up with new music, but doesn't mention a complete user forum. It covers everything from technical support to conversations about new releases, but is also a great place to ask a question like, "I enjoy this and this -- what should I download next?" Other humans will answer. Yet again, nobody else offers this.
Finally, a word about emusic's approach to DRM (digital rights management): there is none. Download gorgeous-sounding MP3s, and play them on as many machines, both desktop and portable, as you possibly can. Again, emusic is utterly unique in this regard. What's to stop you from sending the music you buy to all your friends? Nothing but your conscience.
Or perhaps your entreprenurial spirit (read: greed for more legal music at even lower prices). Instead of sending music you've downloaded to friends, do what I do, which is to send your friends emusic's standard trial offer of 25 free downloads. As I mentioned earlier, every one of them who joins represents 50 free downloads for you -- and nearly everyone that I've exposed to emusic this way has joined. This manner of providing free, legal music for your friends winds up giving YOU free, legal music -- yet another way that emusic stands alone.
Why, it's almost enough to give you faith in the music business!!
I've focused mostly on rock, with dips into dance and jazz, but it's all here -- kids music, soundtracks, classical, world music....I could go on and on (and kind of HAVE), but the fact is that anybody who cares anything for any genre of independent music, including an independent-minded approach to distribution, NEEDS to support emusic. You'll pay less, and get more for it, while voting with your dollars for the best music, and the best way of distributing it.