Strong opinions, weakly held

A few months with emusic.com

A few months ago I signed up for an emusic.com subscription. For about $10 a month, you get the right to download 40 MP3s a month that are yours to keep. At 25 cents a track, it’s a great deal as long as the site has enough music that interests you to keep your queue full. So far, so good.

The one catch is that the 40 downloads are “use them or lose them”. When your account rolls over, you lose any downloads that you didn’t consume. I’ve been good about using all of my downloads every month, so that hasn’t been a problem, but if you’re the kind of person who loses track of this sort of thing, emusic is a good way to spend money without getting any value in return.

The one thing I can’t comment on is the quality of the MP3s, beyond saying that they’re good enough for me. I suspect that audiophiles may differ.

If your music interests center on major label releases, emusic is probably not for you. If you like old stuff, obscure stuff, and indie releases, you’ll probably be pretty happy. I’m still working through the backlog of stuff that I know I want, so I haven’t done much exploring, but emusic has a lot of ways to find music that interests you if you don’t know what you want already. That said, I downloaded an album from Jon Langford’s list of 12 recommendations, and this month Ed Ward has a really good looking list of old country albums that interests me.

My mode of use for the site is to wait most of the month to see if there are any “instant gratification” tracks that appeal to me. If so, I download them. Toward the end of the month I go download some tracks that I have in my queue to use up my quota, then I start again the next month.

The problem I’m running into now is in assimilating new music into my collection. I generally buy Paste magazine, which adds 20 songs or so to my collection every other month, and now I’m downloading 40 tracks a month from emusic. Listening to the songs enough to decide how to rate them is work, and I worry about getting behind.


  1. Listening to the songs enough to decide how to rate them is work, and I worry about getting behind.

    If it feels like work, doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose? I just cancelled my eMusic account because I didn’t feel like taking the time and effort to find music I like. I imagine I’ll restart it in a few months when I get tired of the music that I have.

    A while back, I also wrote a blog post about my feelings about music collecting.

  2. I tried out an emusic account from a free CompUSA promotion a few months ago. One thing I found useful is that there are a number of users who have compiled lists of CD’s that have just a handful of tracks: it makes it easy to find an interesting CD with just the right number of tracks to finish your monthly allotment. I even saw a list of interesting looking CD’s that had just two tracks (generally, about 30min worth of music)

  3. I’ve been an emusic subscriber for the past few months, and since I consume music much faster than at the rate of 40 songs each month, I burn through my downloads within the first week. If anything, emusic tends to make me buy more CDs once my monthly limit is used up, because waiting until the next month just gives me more music to catch up to. I think it definitely helps to be an indie rock nerd, as emusic carries most of the bands I am following; if it’s written about on Pitchfork, you can likely find it on emusic.

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