Updated on 02.20.07

Does eMusic Really Save Money?

Trent Hamm

I enjoy listening to music as I write (especially this album, the greatest thing I’ve ever heard). I love listening to complete albums, cohesive pieces by artists that can go on for an hour or more. I’ll listen to pretty much everything, too, from electronic to pop to jazz to rock.

For a long time, I subscribed to the eMusic service, which has been advertised pretty heavily lately. For a fee each month, you can download legal mp3s of music by many different artists. The music comes to you in a format that can be played on pretty much any media player imaginable, and you can copy it and pretty much do whatever you want with it. There are three plans available:

eMusic Basic: $9.99 per month/30 downloads – that’s $.33 a song
eMusic Plus: $14.99 per month/50 downloads – that’s $.30 a song
eMusic Premium: $19.99 per month/75 downloads – that’s $.27 a song

Compare this to the iTunes Music Store, which costs $0.99 per song download and can only be played in iTunes and only on a certain number of computers and can only be burned to CD a certain number of times, and eMusic seems like a great deal.

Their prices compared to CDs are really amazing, since you can download a 15 song album for between $4 and $5, and it’s completely legal, with the artist getting his share of the proceeds.

Plus, you own the music, even if you stop the service. Other music services are essentially rentals, requiring you to use their music player to listen and when you stop subscribing, it’s over. If you download something great with eMusic, it’s yours. It’s not a music rental service.

There are a few problems with eMusic, however.

The first problem (and it’s a biggie) is the selection. The music you’ll find at eMusic is almost entirely from independent music labels or from archival recordings from major labels. What this basically means is that the site has many amazing albums by critical darlings (like the amazing album Illinoise by Sufjan Stevens, for just one example), you basically aren’t going to have access to the songs that are currently in the top 40. If you want the latest song from Kelly Clarkson, for example, eMusic will not help you. If you’re thinking of signing up, sign up for the free trial first and do some thorough searches of what music they have available.

The second problem is the lack of support for non-Windows systems. I am required to download these items on the one machine I own that is running Windows. I am not free to use a Linux machine or a Mac to get songs off of eMusic. This is disappointing.

Update! It turns out that I’ve overlooked some downloading options for EMusic, esp. if you’re a Mac fan. There’s also apparently an unsupported Linux downloader as well! Check out the comments for some great links from astute Simple Dollar readers!
If these two factors don’t discourage you from using eMusic, their service is definitely a big savings over other (legal) methods of acquiring music. I used their service for almost a year and downloaded tons of albums, and I’ve considered joining again now that their service has many, many interesting new albums to download.

I will say one big thing in eMusic’s favor, though. One of their downloadable albums is my favorite album of all time. If you sign up for their 25 song free trial, you can download it for free and it’s yours to keep.

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  1. David says:

    Hi Trent

    A friend of mine was using eMusic and downloaded what he thought was a particular album by a particular album..only to discover it was an album by a COVER band doing all the same songs with the same name. I used it a while ago and never ran into the problem, but he swears the album had the band name and the right songs, but it was all by another band!

  2. FrugalTrader says:

    What i’m wondering is how you manage to write so many articles in a run of a day. :)

    Good job.


  3. Abe says:

    Actually eMusic does provide downloading software for Mac and Linux. I’m on a Mac and the eMusic downloader works just fine. See this page:


    For Linux, a google search for “emusic downloader linux” will reveal a couple of open-source alternatives to the official eMusic client.

  4. Cory says:

    Hi Trent,

    On linux, you can use EmusicJ to download from emusic. It’s unsupported, but works great for me.


  5. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Great finds, guys! I updated the post to reflect your comments! EMusic looks much better to me now.

  6. Him says:

    Sufjan Stevens’s album is also available on iTunes. In fact, there’s a lot of indie labels available on iTunes. There hasn’t been much that I haven’t been able to find.

    BTW, I’ve always tried to get tickets to see the Sufjan Stevens live show, especially because we live in Illinois. Too bad it’s always sold out in record time. Or so it seems.

  7. Matt Brubeck says:

    You don’t even need to use the downloader programs at all. If you disable the downloader in your account settings, then you can just save the MP3 files directly from any browser on any OS.

    (The “download whole album” links don’t work without the downloader program. You have to click each song individually, instead.)

  8. HC says:

    One of my presents to myself (and to my dad) for next year was to get a subscription to Paste magazine, at a huge discount. So for less than $2 an issue, I’m going to get a CD of 20+ new tracks every month AND access to the download vault. I probably won’t love every song, but it should keep me in clover for awhile.

    I did like emusic when I had it, but I never downloaded enough tracks to make it feel worthwhile.

  9. Remi Kaur says:

    I agree that I wouldn’t want to buy old songs, but is there a card that you have to use to buy the songs or do you have to use a credit card?? I’m sort of confused now…

  10. Gary Davidson says:

    With the current raise in prices, eMusic is not much of the bargain anymore.

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