March 9, 2001

EMusic: Will a free album convince you that MP3 is not a dirty word?

Author: JT Smith

- by Tina Gasperson -
Music download site EMusic.com really wants everyone to know that they are providing what they say is a legitimate way to get your MP3 fix. So much so that they're planning to offer a free, 15-track MP3 download to all comers from March 12th through March 18th."Users can simply sign up for an EMusic account -- no credit card information is needed," says Carla Papageorge, the manager of business development and marketing for EMusic. "They can pick and choose from our entire catalog of more than 160,000 MP3s."

There are more benefits to be found at EMusic, says Papageorge, like genre-specific newsletters and recommended playlists. The company is working hard to change the perception created by the Napster fiasco that music download sites are somehow shady by nature. "EMusic would like to build awareness that MP3s are very much alive and well and legal on legitimate MP3 sites like EMusic.com."

A quick visit to the site shows a well-categorized offering ranging from rock/pop, to blues, to country/folk, to soundtracks, and others. Additionally, EMusic has tracks that are always free, like Phish's "Slave To The Traffic Light" and good old Elvis Costello with his live version of "Radio, Radio."

EMusic looks a lot like MP3.com, whose name, like Napster, was also tainted with controversy when Universal Music Group filed suit claiming copyright infringement. But EMusic is determined to hold the flak that has troubled their competitors at arm's length. According to a March 7 press release at the site, EMusic just filed a complaint against Napster because the music swapping service was allegedly allowing illegal copies of EMusic tracks to be traded through the Napter peer-to-peer network.

The release quotes EMusic president Gene Hoffman: "For over six months, Napster Inc. has flatly rejected our requests to filter out and effectively block EMusic tracks from being traded on their system without our permission. Napster has stated clearly to us and to the courts that they believed such a system was technically impossible. In light of this position, Napster's ability to quickly implement such a filtering system over this past weekend shows the company's true motive -- to unfairly build a business upon the copyrighted works of others."

EMusic says that songwriters and artists are compensated for every piece of their music that is downloaded from the site. Whether or not you happen to think that is important doesn't matter. What does matter to EMusic is that you remember to head over to its site to snarf some free tracks, especially if your Napster connection's been cut off.

EMusic's 'music unlimited' service provides a way for MP3-hungry users to experience a free-for-all downloading binge. For $9.99 a month, you can get a 12 month subscription and access to the entire 160,000 title catalog with no restrictions. If you're not ready to commit for a full year, three-month subs are available for $14.95 a month.

Papageorge says that EMusic hopes to capitalize on Napster's downfall by going the lily-white route. "Our banner ads that will be going out state, 'MP3 is not a dirty word.'" If they can grab enough market share out of MP3.com's hands without getting their fingernails dirty, the campaign could be a winner.

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