With all the iTunes/EMI DRM-free ballyhoo going on, it's easy to forget that sites like eMusic have already been offering inexpensive, DRM-free downloads for years. While Apple and Microsoft casually backpedal out of the DRM mess they've made, eMusic is announcing a very attractive new monthly subscription model that offers 25-cent downloads of DRM-free MP3s. It may not be Apple's reported 256kbps AAC quality, but for the average user a 192kbps MP3 sounds just fine--especially at 25 cents a song.
eMusic's new plans (called Connoisseur) come in three types 100, 200, and 300 downloads per month, priced respectively at $25, $50 and $75. While these are more expensive than rental subscription models like Rhapsody or Urge, at the end of the day you actually keep the music you've downloaded. That's keep--as in forever.
Be warned, eMusic's Achilles heel has always been selection. With major labels historically wary of DRM-free downloads, few have joined in with eMusic's mostly independent catalog. The recent iTunes/EMI deal may signal a sea change in this way of thinking and hopefully reward eMusic for its consistent endorsement of DRM-free music.
If you're an existing eMusic member, here's a link on how to upgrade your plan.