Indie Competitor Fills an iTunes Void

Josh Mogerman, a 35-year-old pop music aficionado in Chicago, has been using eMusic for about six months. Mogerman uses both eMusic and iTunes but prefers eMusic because of the restrictions placed on the iTunes songs.

"The iTunes DRM limits the number of places I can use those purchased songs. EMusic's MP3s are just easier. I can use them on any player, burn them to CD, and I can shift them around far more than the limits imposed by iTunes," Mogerman said.

"In the end, the restrictions for eMusic are a lot easier to live with than those on iTunes," he continued.

Despite the fact that eMusic gears itself toward an "indie group," Mogerman said the slimmer song selection, compared with iTunes selection, can sometimes feel limiting.

"I'd love it if they were able to broaden their reach a bit," he said. "It's a drag to read a great review online, only to hightail it over to eMusic and find it unavailable."

For Smaller Labels, Great Exposure

Many independent record labels appreciate the audience, filled with people like Mogerman, that eMusic reaches.

"We're looking at everyone who's doing this," said Rian Murphy, sales manager of the Chicago label Drag City, which sells songs on iTunes and Musicnet as well as eMusic. "Along the way we're getting e-mail from members of the audience, saying 'this is where your kind of stuff is happening.'"

Drag City boasts indie rock fixtures like Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Pavement and Stereolab. The label began to sell songs on eMusic a few months ago, releasing albums from such artists as Joanna Newsom and Silver Jews.

Murphy said the label is unconcerned about eMusic's lack of digital restrictions.

"We would prefer that if you download something like that it would be able to play any format. … As a consumer myself I would feel ripped off," he said. "When we sell a vinyl record there are not turntables that it can't play on."

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