eMusic

I’ve been using the iTunes music store pretty much since it came out, and have never had any real issues with the DRM. It’s simple enough to burn CD’s, put the music on your iPod, etc. I would love for Apple to offer a subscription service, but so far they are reluctant to and until one of the subscription services, such as Yahoo, Napster, etc. become a threat, I don’t think they will.

All that being said, sometimes 99 cents per track, or 9.99 for most albums, can be steep if you just want to try some music out. The 30 seconds snippets they provide really aren’t enough in some cases. Of course, when I want to keep the music forever, 99 cents is fine. (I won’t get into the debate over whether I actually own or am just licensing the music here).

So when I saw some ads for eMusic, and their non-DRM’d MP3’s, and the chance for a no obligation trial of 40 songs, I jumped at it. And I’ve decided to stay a member on their basic plan which is $9.99 per month for 40 songs, or about 25 cents a song. You can add bonus packs too if in any given month that is not enough. The other monthly plans are 14.99 for 65 songs and 19.99 for 90 songs.

Their catalogue is not as extensive as iTMS but I’ve found a lot of music I like, including Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, Richard Shindell, Woody Guthrie, a tribute to the Beatles, etc. In other words, I have no problems getting 40 songs a month.

Pandora

Check out http://www.pandora.com. It’s a (somewhat) new web service that touts itself as a music discovery service. You can enter a few artists or songs that you like, and then it begins to stream music to you based on that information. You can then give thumbs up or thumbs down to the music to further tune your “station.”

They’ve undertaken what they call the “Music Genome” project, in which they’ve listened to and analyzed tons of songs, and categorized them (or more accurately categorized many characteristics of them). So based on the input you give it of what you like, they play you songs that have similar characteristics.

So far I’m fairly impressed, though I’m only in day 2. I’ve given it a few artists like Dar Williams, Holly Cole and Donna the Buffalo, that I thought might be too obscure, and they actually recognized them and have played a fair number of Dar songs. No Holly Cole or Donna the Buffalo yet, so my guess is that they don’t have licenses to play those two (yet).

Their web page says they have about 300,000 tracks now. While this doesn’t come near Apple’s 2-3 million, it’s a good start for something that is really only a few months old. Personally I’d like to be able to feed it my iTunes library, at least the play count number of the songs, and have it build my station that way.

At any rate, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the major Internet music services purchase Pandora at some point down the road. While I can’t see Apple doing it since they don’t have a subcription model (though Pandora does have an advertising agreement with them as well as Amazon)). Yahoo purchased MusicMatch, which had a similar “recommendation” feature though it was not done as a “genome” project. So I’m not so sure about them. Maybe Napster?

If you want to listen to my radio station that I’ve been working on the past 2 days, click here:

2sparrows radio