I’m not really an early adopter kind of guy. Once I become comfortable with something, like CDs for instance, the thought of switching to something new seems like a gigantic hassle to me. And unnecessary.
I mean, what’s wrong with the good ol’ compact disc? Wasn’t it just a few years ago we were all turning backflips into our own solid waste over those things? Yes, I believe it was.
So, when everyone started walking around with white earbuds hanging off their heads, I mocked them. As is my nature. “What a grand gang of douches!” I howled, while hoisting a twenty-pound music satchel onto the console of my car.
I’m not proud of it, but I think I even made occasional sheep noises: “Baaaaa baaa Mr. Sheep!!”
When I joined a gym (ha!) a couple of years ago, I was the only person in the place still carrying a Sony Discman. Some of the younger people did double-takes, having only seen such ancient technology in movies like War Games. You would’ve thought I had a crankable Victrola around my neck…
And when I got the treadmill going, and began stumbling and flailing like an arthritic monkey, the CD would skip all around. I was always afraid the laser might shoot out, and sear-off someone’s arm.
A former employer gave me a 2GB iPod nano for Christmas a few years back, and it went unused. The thing sat on the corner of my desk at home, with the ridiculous headphones wrapped around it, for many months. CDs had served me well, and I saw no reason to abandon them.
Then I got a different job, working extended hours in front of computer screens, and noticed most of my co-workers used iPods to ward off the boredom, the mind-eating boredom.
So, out of desperation I tried it, and became a reluctant convert…
I hated to admit it, but the thing was fantastic! I loaded it with old Phil Hendrie shows, Jean Shepherd programs from the ’60s, old time radio (like Suspense), and whatever twenty CDs I thought I might want to hear during my shift. How had I lived without it??
And now I don’t even have a CD player in my office at home. I have a second iPod (80GB), and a docking station. There is currently 11,000 songs (or so) stored on the thing, and it’s not even half-full. I love it so much, I could almost cry.
Until recently, however, I clung to my CD addiction.
I tried iTunes and didn’t like it. If I was going to pay ten bucks for an album, I wanted to have something solid that could be stored on a shelf. I also experimented with the illegal peer-to-peer services, but had a moral problem with the whole thing. I tried to execute the mental jujitsu necessary to justify it, and couldn’t pull it off.
So I continued buying CDs, and transferred them to my iPods. It was the best of both worlds: I had one foot in the old, and the other foot in the new. It was a comfortable situation.
Now, I’m afraid, the transition is almost complete. It started with an occasional album purchased through the Amazon mp3 store. Most days they offer something for $3.99, and list five seemingly random albums on Fridays at $5 each. I took the bait a few times, and realized it wasn’t so bad. I could live without having a physical copy. I could do it, if the price was right…
I joined eMusic after someone in the comments at this site recommended it, with the intention of taking their 50 bonus songs and canceling my membership. (Don’t tell anyone.) And you can probably guess how that turned out… That’s right, I got hooked.
eMusic is a subscription-based download service. The plan I chose costs $14.99, and my account is credited 50 songs on my anniversary date every month. There are no prices at the site, you simply exchange one song credit for one song.
But you’ll find no Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, or Metallica there. eMusic offers albums (or individual songs) from independent labels only. So, instead of mega-selling stadium acts, you’ll find alternative rock classics, current college radio favorites, ’70s punk, etc. etc.
Since joining I’ve picked up full-length albums by Gaslight Anthem, Spoon, the Cramps, the Adverts, Dinosaur Jr., Big Dipper, Lloyd Cole, Neutral Milk Hotel, Arcade Fire, 999, and more.
They also offer downloads from other categories (including audiobooks), but I’m fairly fixated on alternative rock and can’t tell you much about the selection in other genres. In my niche, however, they’ve got the proverbial metric shitload. It’s a seemingly bottomless pit of excellent.
I mentioned how price made the difference for me, and it’s true. All things being equal, I’d still rather have a CD, I think. iTunes is not attractive, for that very reason; their full-length albums cost roughly the same as the physical CD. So, I’ll go with the latter, thank you very much.
But eMusic offers a powerful incentive to make the leap to mp3: their prices are really good.
You’re Living All Over Me by Dinosaur Jr. is one of alternative rock’s greatest records, and here’s what you’ll pay for it at various online music stores, along with my cost at eMusic:
Amazon (physical CD) $13.99 + shipping
Amazon (download) $8.90
iTunes store (download) $9.90
eMusic (download) $3.00
Pretty big difference, huh?
Plus, the mp3s at eMusic aren’t loaded-up with crapola that limits their play. Once you download it, you can burn it, copy it to as many computers as you like, and basically own the thing. Some of the other services seem to assume we’re all a bunch of crooks.
So, I’m completely sold. Their website is even great. It’s filled with Top Ten lists, in hundreds of categories, and features informative essays from well-known music writers — not just assholes from the marketing department.
It’s not for everyone, of course. They’re obviously catering to folks whose tastes run outside the mainstream. But if you’re in that target audience, I think it’s a great deal. And a lot of fun.
One small negative: the credits don’t roll over from month to month. Like with floating holidays, you use ’em or you lose ’em. Not a fan…
But, other than that, I’m a full convert. I’ve finally been coaxed out of the 1990s, and while it’s certainly scary, it’s also kind of exciting.
Will somebody please hold me?