Apple’s monopoly is a tough one to crack, and the company makes it so easy to buy stuff through iTunes (at prices that are higher than most of their competitors) that it’s hard for a competitor to get a toehold. But after looking closely at the competition, I can’t imagine why anyone would buy from the iTunes Music Store when there are so many alternatives that are less expensive and more interesting. Here, in order, are the services I’m sticking with for the near future:
Lala I really love the innovation this little company is showing. I also love their low prices, especially the nickel-a-track charge for a web album. I’ve uploaded a few hundred tracks from my personal music collection to this service to go with the web albums I’ve paid for. On some upcoming business trips, I’m planning to play tunes from this collection in my hotel room instead of watching TV. My only real concern is that this little company won’t survive the fierce competition from Apple and others.
eMusic Every month, when my eMusic downloads reset, I feel like it’s Christmas Day. The site underwent a major redesign last year that made it much faster and more usable. With its off-the-beaten-track assortment of artists and albums, I couldn’t live on a diet of music from this service alone. But as a supplement to a more traditional download service, it’s one of the best bargains you can find.
Amazon MP3 If I can’t find it elsewhere, I’m always confident that Amazon will have it. In fact, Amazon’s pricing is flexible enough that I usually check there before buying elsewhere, just to see if the title is on special this week. While fact-checking this post, in fact, I discovered that Amazon was selling one title on CD for less than what it charged for an MP3 download. And the MP3 Deal of the Day is often irresistible and keeps me coming back.
Zune Pass I’m still getting my money’s worth out of the Zune Pass subscription service, but with other tempting options like Lala I might end up using it less. I’ll be paying close attention to how much I use it for the next few months and might end up dropping it or at least suspending it for a month or two if the value doesn’t seem to be there.
Rhapsody My subscription runs out in July, and I won’t be renewing it unless I get to keep the $6-a-month price tag I’ve paid for the past two years. Something tells me that offer won’t be forthcoming.
Amie Street I’ll keep an eye on this one to see whether they show signs of building an identity, but I doubt whether they’ll get any of my money anytime soon.