A confession: I wasn’t an online music buyer until Apple’s iTunes Music Store came along. Too many of the stores seemed to offer music in proprietary formats which only proprietary clients could play. All seemed to have a crawlingly limited selection.
Of course, I realized after a week or so happily downloading stuff from the ’Store, the same is true of Apple’s offering. Proprietary format? Close—AAC appears to be supported by a very small constellation of players (fortunately including both iTunes and the iPod). And limited selection? Well, no Radiohead, Sigur Ros, or Beatles, and (at least for now) no indie labels. But, I decided, I was still having a good time with the service.
But what to do about all the indie music? As a loyal KEXP listener, I yearned for something beyond the major labels. Then Scott Rosenberg wrote about eMusic: “If your musical taste runs to obscurities anyway, this is one of the best bargains on the Net.” Encouraged, I gave it a try. And Scott was right: eMusic rocks. MP3 downloads, lots of indie labels, and (bonus) enormous swaths of the Fantasy back catalog, including Prestige and Riverside recordings (think Monk, 50s era Miles and Trane, and hundreds of other key jazz records). Over the last week (during my trial membership) I’ve downloaded the Pernice Brothers, Yo La Tengo, Kristin Hersh, Daniel Lanois’ latest (oh well, always at least one clinker), an EP of My Morning Jacket, and some oddities to round out old reconstructed mix tapes, like Peter Murphy. Plus the cover of “You and Your Sister” by This Mortal Coil with Kim and Kelley Deal on vocals.
So that unanticipated side effect? All of a sudden, after Apple’s breakthrough, buying music on line seems like the most natural thing in the world—regardless of who’s selling. I wouldn’t be surprised if eMusic and other online stores get a big lift over the next few months.