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Online Music Update

Friday, November 10th, 2006 by | Filed Under: Multimedia

Online Music Update

Music lovers and computer aficionados alike, have become savvy researchers of the online music scene. They try to feed their lyrical fix with free downloads or subscription download services. However, these fans (including myself) often gripe that with subscription services, they are facing the same problem as they do in music stores. They feel that even with the brief previews provided at certain retailers, like Barnes and Noble and on online music Web sites, they aren’t able to learn more about a new artist’s sound. So, this is when we bring in online music. The following run down of online music services will show even the most discerning online music fan that there actually still is some hope.

In my mind, the best new music provider on the Internet is eMusic, which can be found at This great Web site has been marketed to college students, readers of magazines like Rolling Stone and others who most commonly go to the online music well. This marketing campaign has included ubiquitous black and red cards that allow new subscribers to get 50 free downloads to their MP3 players and iPods. For those who haven’t come across these cards, don’t fret, because eMusic has a standard new subscriber bonus of 25 free downloads. Once you get past the free downloads, however, the fun doesn’t stop. With just under two million songs available for download, eMusic is competitive with other online music services. Subscriptions start at $9.99 per month for 40 downloads and go up to $19.99 for 90 downloads, which allows music lovers to download between four and nine full CDs worth of material for a fraction of the retail costs.

Napster, found at, is the center of the peer-to-peer music firestorm of a few years back. It has become a legitimate subscription music service along the way. Napster’s attempts to reach out to music lovers who want to sample new music or classics by their favorite artists can listen to every one of the Web site’s two million songs three times before subscribing. I listened to the entire new album by The Who on Napster, which convinced me to purchase it on CD. As well, Napster offers a seven day free trial run of their software, complete with downloads to a variety of MP3 players. For $14.99 per month, Napster offers unlimited downloads to consumers who want access to as much music as they can download. Napster does not allow downloads to iPods, but MP3 players by Creative, Dell, Gateway and others, are compatible with Napster’s software.

A competitor to Napster’s extensive free music offering is Rhapsody, located at Rhapsody allows visitors to listen to 25 music channels of their favorite music without having to pay a dime. While this free service is entirely computer based and not downloadable to MP3 players, it is great for those who work at their computer and want to listen to free music of their choosing. However, Rhapsody offers two different subscription services for those who want more out of their online music service. With the Rhapsody Unlimited Account, at $9.99 a month, it offers access to millions of songs on demand, for those who know what band or genre they are interested in listening to. As well, with the Unlimited Account comes a discount on individual MP3 downloads, starting at $0.89. The premium account at Rhapsody is the Rhapsody To Go service, available for $14.99. With Rhapsody To Go, subscribers can drag tracks of their favorite music from the site onto their MP3 player and get the benefits of both the free and the Unlimited Account.

The subscription services all have their benefits, but if you are anything like me, you still want to have access to free music and independent sounds. Not to mention, having a few different sites in your music repertoire is not a bad idea. The Web site of, available at, offers one source of free downloads of independent music. Like Amazon’s free download service, features a wide variety of little known artists who are hoping to get exposure to new listeners through free downloads. As well, features news and features on the music industry, a clearinghouse of information on MP3 players and access to limited free downloads by artists who have been around for awhile, like U2 and Eminem.

While many people choose one subscription service over another and stay loyal to it, I would encourage people to take advantage of the free services through all four of these Web sites. Most require a simple registration to access free services and the rewards are great, considering the mounting cost of downloads and CDs. Don’t be afraid to try all of these music services at one point or another so you can gain better insight into the online music market. Finally, remember to enjoy yourself, because that is why we listen to music in the first place!

~ Nick Katers

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