eMusic goes Barenaked to promote 100 millionth download

The Barenaked Ladies have a new song that’s not available on any of their albums, a peppy song called “Michael Brennan.” Who is this mysterious Michael Brennan they call “really, really, really cool,” who “invented chips and dip,”and is “smarter than Jimmy Carter,” you might ask? He’s a 48-year-old visual artist from New Jersey who completed eMusic’s 100,000,000th download.

And what is eMusic, you might ask? It’s the second largest seller of digital music after the iTunes goliath. The website arranged this novel promotion with the Canadian band, who have been vocal opponents of the recording industry’s penchant for suing its consumers and proponents of selling music without digital rights management (DRM). The tune is available for free right now to eMusic subscribers, before being bundled with the band’s current album Barenaked Ladies are Men.

The song is insanely catchy and, par for the Barenaked Ladies course, silly fun. It also calls attention to a service that isn’t attempting to be a replacement for iTunes, but is an even better complementary service. The artists one lacks are likely to be found on the other, and the business model of eMusic is less likely to inspire the kind of Apple arrogance rage that iTunes does.

Part of the reason I prefer eMusic is the pricing structure, which both annoys me because I’m not crazy about the idea of a monthly subscription fee, and makes me smack myself for being annoyed because it is a great way to collect music I love without having to weigh whether each song is really worth 99 cents, or each album 10 bucks. The packages get more cost effective as you go up the ladder, but even the smallest, at 30 songs for $9.99, works out to around 33 cents a song.

Where eMusic stomps all over iTunes is the format of the music files. As they put it, you’re buying the music, not renting it, via 193k MP3s unencumbered by DRM. You can play the songs on your computer and your iPod and your Zune and burn them to CD and create an MP3 disc, making as many copies on as many computers and devices as you like.

You won’t find albums by Avril Levigne or Beyonce, but you will find a wide variety of popular artists on indie labels, like Arcade Fire, Snow Patrol, Metric, Stars, Sufjan Stevens, Badly Drawn Boy, and even Johnny Cash, Miles Davis, Van Morrison, Ray Charles, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. They boast “2 million tracks from more than 13,000 independent labels spanning every genre of music” and rather than count them myself, I’ll take their word for it.

The site makes it easy to explore new-to-you music, with editor’s picks clearly marked, top selling and top rated charts, user reviews, and ways to see what else others who share your tastes are fans of. There’s also daily free downloads to whet your appetite for a variety of artists you may not have heard of. And yes, it’s OK to end sentences with prepositions.

eMusic might not be quite as cool as Michael Brennan, but it’s a refreshing way to buy music online after living with the limitations of iTunes proprietary format for so long. You’re also likely to find some really, really, really cool artists you love and more you didn’t know you loved that are unavailable on iTunes.

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One Response to eMusic goes Barenaked to promote 100 millionth download

  1. Renee says:

    I just wanted to compliment you on your gutsy grammar. Darn right prepositions can be at the end of sentences.

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