Thursday, June 25, 2009

the Rise and Demise of, through the eyes of a devout follower

emusic has been a strange fixture in my life for the past four years. Since March of '05, I've been paying a cheap fee to download a sizable amount of music every month. I started with 40 tracks for $10. emusic was a much smaller site then than it is now. For those that don't know, the appeal of the site is that it stocks only music on independent labels, so it can afford to charge much less per track than iTunes or any other keep-what-you-buy site.

As a fifteen year-old high school freshman, finding about the fledgling website was a godsend. I could say that I didn't know how much of a godsend it was at the time, which would be true, but at the time I thought it was pretty darn cool. During middle school I downloaded a ton of (mostly awful, of course) music from peer-to-peer programs, like most people. Unlike most people, I experienced a pretty sudden extreme paradigm shift about my feelings on music piracy. I read articles and statements about the fall in cd sales and the impending doom facing the music business. Feeling like it was the right thing to do, and being adamant about my decision to do so, I deleted every song of the library of pirated music I'd amassed during my peer-to-peer career.

Left alone with my massive collection of cds bought from BMG music catalog and Sam Goody et al, I started anew in my quest to fill up my life with legal mp3s. I downloaded artists' free tracks on purevolume and I discovered that Amazon had a fair collection of free downloads of new artists (where I heard Bloc Party, The Decemberists, and Arcade Fire for the first time). When I first found out about emusic, my ears' heart fell to the floor. Here was a site that could not only give me more for less, but also could give me almost any cd too far off the beaten path to be in stock at Wal-Mart. Remember, I am a freshman in high school, so this means Brand New's 'Your Favorite Weapon' and The Vines 'Veni Vidi Vicious'. Here comes the kicker, though. I get all the things I've been unable to find in the past, I've got a monthly subscription, and I've got a duty to myself to find new music. What next? And almost immediately, my listening habits/life (where is the separation?) changed.

On a ride home from seeing Phantom Planet at Summerfest with a cousin, my uncle played 'The Electric Version' in the car. Vaguely interested in this unknown band with an obscene name, I downloaded the album from emusic and fell in love. I scoured issues of Spin (which i had recently begun reading) for suggestions and highly rated albums. I explored the pre-major label back catalogs of bands like Thursday and AFI. I blindly downloaded albums by bands like the Black Keys and The Pixies and Spoon until I was no longer blindly downloading anything. My mental lists of artists and albums to check out started growing out of control (it's never stopped, of course). Since payment on emusic has always been by track, regardless of length, I started to heavily explore genres like post-rock. Astounded that I could buy an hour and a half of godspeed you! black emperor for the same price as the first ten or fifteen minutes of most albums, I downloaded without hesitation and listened accordingly. And that pattern went on for years--download, download, listen, listen, research, wait for the next month's downloads to appear. And, even for an unemployed high school student, ten dollars is not hard to come up with every month. Not for good music, at least.

As time went on, the site grew. Though old rates were grandfathered in, new ones got more expensive. More and more labels started selling music on the site. Victory Records stopped by for a few months, Domino was added, emusic started to put those annoying card stock inserts in magazines. A year ago, my subscription was changed to 50 downloads a month for 12 dollars.

Come July, there will be a 'major addition' to artists in the emusic catalog. The major addition seems to be mostly big 70s-90s rock and pop names along with current bands including Modest Mouse, Outkast, and Kings of Leon. In exchange for bigger names, my subscription will now be a disappointing-yet-still-better-than-iTunes $12 a month for 30 downloads. Sad, but what can you do? Do a healthy amount of reminiscing in a long blog post, I guess.

I'm not sure if I ever realized how greatly emusic has impacted me until I wrote this. Very interesting. Has anyone else ever used the site? Comments especially appreciated on this post.


  1. i continue to download most of my music illegally, to huge guilt...

    but this mostly stems from the fact that i don't like paying for things that don't have an immediate physical manifestation. i do support artists by going to shows and buying merch? ah, well... i am not perfect.

  2. In the past two years, my views on music piracy have relaxed significantly and I currently download a large amount of music from blogs, as well...I'll write about this another time. I meant to include more about this, but it was getting really long.

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