Recently, I read an article about music download sites in AFB’s Access World. I sent a note to its editor in Chief Jay Leventhal, a decent guy with a lot of journalistic credibility but a tendency to look for the good in everything and not always point out the worst aspects of an item he may be reviewing. I generally like Jay’s articles but I believe he can definitely hit a little harder sometimes. Jay did not write the article about music downloads, though, rather a woman named Janet, an outsider, did. I sent Jay a note of support about the article as I enjoyed it quite a bit and I pointed out a few minor factual issues that, in my opinion, do not warrant repeating here as I couldn’t see someone choosing a service based upon the little corrections I sent along.
I did find that the author only tested the site with Window-Eyes, a screen reader used by a minority of the population, kind of disturbing but Jay reminded me that AccessWorld doesn’t require outside authors to test with every credible screen reader which, today, would include JAWS, Window-Eyes, HAL, Freedom Box and for those who use a portable device, Mobile Speak, PAC Mate and a handful of different Humanware devices. I agreed that the onus on a freelance writer, especially one who works for what Access World pays, would not be worth their while and accepted that such could use a single screen reader for their tests.
I enjoyed Janet’s article and urge my readers to go to the Access World page (pointer above) to check out the original. I wanted to use this space today to talk specifically about emusic, one of the sites reviewed in the AW article.
I first started using emusic.com because my new Toshiba came with a shortcut that said, “50 Free Music Downloads,” on its desktop. I clicked on the link, signed up with the intention of canceling within my free two weeks and started downloading.
I enjoy classical music and jazz a real lot. I also enjoy “trad” country, bluegrass, blues, indie rock, hip hop and most anything that steers away from the vanilla of the mainstream. Thus, I found the emusic site, where one cannot find songs by the Rolling Stones (a band I enjoy a lot) but features Pumpkinhead, Peaches, Benny Goodman, Arnold Shoenberg, John Coltran and Margaret Cho something to explore.
I have purchased their highest level subscription which gives me something like 100 downloads for $20 per month. I don’t expect to find the Beatles or Prince here but nor do I expect the other sites to sell me their songs for twenty cents a pop. I do, however, enjoy downloading the entire five CD set that includes all three hours of the legendary Benny Goodman 1938 carnegie Hall performance plus the classic hits of “the small band” from 1943 – 47 (the first truly integrated jazz act to perform without swapping out members for “whites only” clubs and concert halls) for about $13. At the same time, I enjoy the serious positivism of the NY underground rap scene with guys like Pumpkinhead and Mystic, indie rockers who bring sexual politics to new heights like Peaches does on “Impeach My Bush,” and, of course, the hilarious stand up works that Margart Cho brings to the stage and now my collection of media files.
So, if you’re looking for an alternative to the mainstream download sites where you can spend a fair amount to download the same crap you can hear anywhere else, go to Urge (an MTV product) or the Real Networks site, if you’re looking for a reasonably accessible but no where perfect download site where you can discover some very cool alternative artists, head for emusic.com and enjoy.