Rebuttal: eMusic vs. Apple Music

An article entitled “Why EMusic gets it (and Apple doesn’t)” was linked off of boingboing today. It’s a good read, but I think that if Trammell Hudson had a chance to use the service, most of his points would get shattered pretty quickly.

No DRM or Crippled Files – Apple’s DRM, unless previous music industry attempts at DRM, is minimal and, more importantly, reasonable. The primary limitation is “no more than 3 computers at a time”. That’s not 3 computers ever, mind you – you can always deauthenticate ones you aren’t using anymore. There’s a very minor restriction on burning (no more than 10 burns with one exact playlist) that is quite reasonable at preventing people from making endless copies of the same album.
I think asking for current artists and labels to agree to selling music with absolutely no restrictions is an iffy proposition at best; this would be why eMusic seems to carry mostly older, more obscure titles (or so it would seem from the comments I’ve read).
Cross platform / no software install required
I agree that the Apple Music Store not being cross platform is a huge shortcoming. There’s not really any debating that.
On the other hand, saying that “no software install” is required is a little humorous; you certainly need an MP3 player for eMusic, which unlike iTunes on an Apple machine, is not a standard part of Windows. And before someone tries to squabble with me over iTunes 4 not coming standard on Macs at the moment, that’s what Software Update is for.
Also, I notice on the eMusic site there’s a little asterix next to the download links that say it requires the eMusic Download Manager. Wouldn’t that be a necessary install?
Searchable without setup / subscription
Apple’s Music Store is completely searchable (and I might add, previewable) without authenticating to an account with a credit card or giving Apple any personal information.
Flat rate
There’s a very common misconception that because single tracks are $0.99, full CDs would be $0.99 * number of tracks. Apple, smartly, doesn’t do this; if a full album is available, generally it’s $9.99, even if it has 12, 14, 16, 18, however many tracks. So $10/month is *not* less than one album from Apple per month.
Two caveats: Some albums are apparently $12.99, but I haven’t run into those yet. Also, there are some $9.99 albums with less than 10 tracks, but you can (often) buy all those tracks individually and save the difference.
I also (just on a personal level) don’t like being tied into a service for a year. While all you can eat is certainly good for some people, it’s not for everyone.
Worthwhile free trial
Apple Music Store has a free, hi-fi 30 second streaming sample of every single track on the service, without registration.
External program integration
I think this falls into a difference of business models. eMusic has incentive to open their API because once you’re a registered paying user, you have run of the store and would want to download multiple albums. Apple Music Store, on the other hand, is very much not designed for people to sit and leech large amounts at one time. I mean, conceivably you COULD, but I don’t think that’s what Apple’s going for. I just don’t see what advantage Apple would have of opening up the API to other people.
An aside: While we’re talking about integration, iTunes’ AAC playback functions are covered by QuickTime 6.2, which will allow any QT enabled application to play the AAC files just the same as any other audio file it supports. So there’s certainly application integration for playback.
I’m not saying Apple Music Service is flawless – I can’t even get my account verified due to issues with Mastercard debit cards. But we’re barely 48 hours into the life of the thing, and they’ve done so many things correctly, that I think that dismissing them almost out of hand might be a mistake.