Peer-to-Peer Pressure

Erin and I downloaded 35 songs over the last two weeks. There was way too much pressure involved in this process, and it was significantly less fun that it should have been.

See, the man at the comic store gave me this eMusic promo card a few weeks back. For whatever reason, eMusic partnered up with Marvel and crosspromoted their legal music download service with an upcoming collection of the next segment of Joss Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-Men. I’m not really certain what either side actually gets out of this, but hey, the card had X-Men on it and offered me 35 MP3 downloads for the low, low price of Free Ninety-Free. I’m not made of stone here, people.

There was a catch, of course. Obviously, you had to sign up for the actual service before they’d let you have the trial period, because they’re not that stupid. But that was actually the easy part. I did a little research, and eMusic’s praises were sung far and wide, and it was, in fact, very easy to cancel out of the service if you’re unsatisfied for any reason. And it’s not like iTunes, where you’re sort of beholden to them for life if you want to keep playing the tracks you buy. If you download from eMusic, the songs are yours to do with as you please. No limitations on when, where, or how you use, transfer, or burn them.

Nope, the catch is your trial period is about two weeks. Which doesn’t sound like much of a problem. And it probably isn’t for most people. As has been proven time and again, though, Erin and I aren’t most people. Between the two of us, we like a whole damn lot of different music. We’ve got the iPod playlists and CD collection to prove it (even after the recent mass purging of said CD collection, we still fill two large racks). But we’re not exactly the sort of folks who need to download or buy new stuff all the time. I’ve personally acquired fewer than 10 new CDs all year, and I guarantee that over half of those were gifts of some kind. The story is more or less the same for Erin, too. And last Christmas, we received two $15 iTunes gift cards, and along the way picked up something like 6 or 7 additional freebie downloads off of some offer Cheerios had in the summer. A full year later, we still have credit remaining. This is why we jumped off the Napster/Audiogalaxy/Kazaa/whatever-P2P-service-is-popular-now bandwagon a few years back; we download so little music that we don’t mind actually paying for it once in awhile.

We attacked the problem head-on, but it was slow going from day one. There’s a lot of music available through eMusic, but as they’re not the sort of powerhouse that iTunes is, or even the current version of Napster, so it can sometimes take you awhile to find a band or artist you like. And when you do, the listing isn’t necessarily comprehensive, so there may be tracks or even entire albums unavailable to you. They have a large number of exclusive live performances, though, which is admittedly pretty cool. And if you’re looking for indie bands that go unserved – possibly even unnoticed – by the likes of Apple, it definitely pays to nose around. Lots of stuff from labels like K, Victory, Kill Rock Stars, and so forth. And a healthy selection of actually-palatable kids’ stuff, too, like Laurie Berkner and Dan Zanes.

But even despite all that, it still came down to the wire for us, since we still had about a dozen tracks to go the night before the trial expired. We did end up with a good chunk of songs we’re happy with, though. Erin got some Baby Gopal tracks she liked in college, a Rainer Maria song, a little Dashboard (let’s hear it for Alfonso Q. Dashboard, III!), Dressy Bessy, and a Halo Benders song we’ve been trying to remember for about 7 years now. I found some covers of They Might Be Giants songs, the track TMBG did with Mike Doughty a few years back, a couple Cub songs (and discovered I greatly prefer TMBG’s cover of their song, New York City), a New Pornographers song I didn’t already have, a live Dickies song, and a couple of Archies songs (Sugar, Sugar and Jingle Jangle, if you must know). We also found some Christmas music (finally have a copy of Snoopy’s Christmas, but it’s not the original Royal Guardsmen version, sadly; can’t find that anywhere) and a few Laurie Berkner songs for Liam (that’s our story, and we’re sticking to it). And probably some other stuff, too. Some Samiam, I think. And some song about Green Lantern which is just about as bad as you think a song about Green Lantern is going to be (but is still fun somehow).

So, yeah, we found some music we enjoyed, free and legal and everything, but honestly, I can’t imagine trying to find 30 (or more, depending on the package you sign up for) every single stinkin’ month. Way too much stress involved there for it to be any fun at all. eMusic is a great service, just not for us.

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