Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Do you buy a lot of music? I do, and I've recently been looking at two vendors with two very different business models and value propositions:

1) eMusic.com

Last time I looked at eMusic, they were still basically a dot-com startup in search of a business model, let alone profitability. At that point, if I'd had money to invest, I would have put it on the Underpants Gnomes before these guys.

However, they are now the new eMusic.com (now with added revenue stream!) and the value prop is pretty good - so long as your musical tastes have sufficient overlap with what they offer, although with over 500,000 tracks to choose from, including a lot of older releases from indie labels, there's a pretty fair bet you'll find enough to make it worth your money. It works for me, nut if you're looking for the absolute latest anything you may not find it here, but otherwise for DRM-free good-quality legal MP3s at around 22c each, you can't beat 'em.

2) YourMusic.com

This site is an offshoot of industry behemoth Bertelsmann Music Group who also own the BMG Music Service, which competes with venerable Columbia House ("Buy 12 CDs for the price of one with nothing more to buy, ever!") (see here for more on these two) but with an interesting two-fold twist on the standard "CD buyer's club" theme:

a) It's a subscription service. You pays your $5.99/mo and they ship you one CD a month, p&p included.
b) You maintain a queue of CDs you're interested in, a la Netflix. However, unlike Netflix, you only get one CD a month (as opposed to Netflix' concurrent use pricing) but, again unlink Netflix, you keep the CD. Presumably Netflix' system worksfor them because copying DVDs is still largely painful to do and requires hardwareand software most people do not have; the same is clearly untrue when applied to CDs.

The downside is they only have 14,000 albums (call it 140,000 tracks), you can only buy by the album, and, predictably, there's a lot of Ashlee Simpson, Travis Tritt and Usher to be found there. When I browsed the catalog I was able to find an average of one album on each page of 12 listed that I was sort-of interested in. I think that would be the stumbling block for me - actually being able to find enough CDs that I wanted to buy for $6 each to sustain a six-month commitment, let alone a year.

Between these two, my money is on (and going to) eMusic.com. YMMV.

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