Skip to the eMusic downgrade saga.
Hey kids. Guess what time it is? If you guessed that it's time for another self indulgent rant from el otrops, you're right! How excited are you?
For various reasons, I've never bought music from the iTunes store before. The New Pornographers Christmas EP -- which is apparently only available on iTunes -- forced me to bite the bullet and gave them my credit card details. The whole buying process went smoothly. Until I tried to play the songs. Apparently, I had to activate the music on my computer. When I did, iTunes informed me that I had activated the songs for 2 computers and could activate them on 3 more. 2 computers? Huh? I just downloaded and played these songs on the same computer. Then I did some quick math: I have another computer at work and Joanne's computer. After that, I have one slot left before I'm locked out of music that I paid for. And that's assuming that iTunes doesn't decide that any of those other computers are actually two computers.
Fortunately, I don't have to buy music from iTunes. I've getting much of my music through eMusic. It's superb. You pay them a monthly fee and get a certain number of downloads a month. I've gone for the 30 downloads for £7.99. Their downloader application is great. It's pretty similar to the Amazon MP3 downloader if you've used that. The music is DRM-free, high-quality (~200kbps) MP3s. They have a pretty wide range of music. They don't always have everything I want, but I'm pretty sure I won't have a problem deciding on 30 downloads a month. Most of the bands are on small labels that have nothing to do with the RIAA. I couldn't ask for more, and I'd definitely recommend it. They even give you 25 free downloads when you sign up.
Update: OK, so maybe eMusic isn't all that great either. I'm currently playing a super-fun game with them: how many emails does it take to get them to downgrade my account. So far we're up to three emails, each of which began 'Please downgrade my account to eMusic Plus Monthly.' These elicit slightly different version of standard boilerplate text telling me how I can cancel my account. Much further down the page is this gem: 'To downgrade your account, please reply.' At this point, I'm mostly amused. I just want to find out if it's actually possible to downgrade an account. Their FAQ claims that it is, but I don't believe it.
I've just noticed that Matador have chosen to go the "iTunes exclusive" route with the new Yo La Tengo Live EP as well. Really? I guess that's one Yo La Tengo EP I'm not going to hear, which makes me sad.
Update 2: I've noticed a few Google Searches for "downgrade emusic" leading to this post, so I thought I'd let you know what eventually happened. I waited a week, and still didn't get a real response from eMusic. Frustrated, I downloaded my remaining mp3s and canceled my account. Three days later, I had a response from eMusic support saying that my account had been successfully downgraded. Curious, I tried to log in. Sure enough, eMusic had reactivated my account. I left it at that for about a week and a half, while I considered whether or not to stay with eMusic. Just before the next billing cycle started, I canceled my account again. They haven't reactivated. From now on, I'll be getting my music from Insound and Amazon if they ever launch their MP3 program in the UK. And of course, from various local record shops.