Wednesday, July 8, 2009

eMusic we hardly knew ye 2

I have benefited tremendously from my membership in eMusic. I owe this to my friend and benefactor, Ken Laster, who got me enrolled. Over the last year I have subscribed to eMusic's most generous plan. For just short of two hundred dollars, I got 75 downloads a month. That means 75 cuts off of a great selection of classic jazz. I have expanded my jazz library beyond my earlier, wildest dreams.

But recently eMusic has tightened the screws. The good news is that they acquired the Sony catalog, which means that I can get a lot more great jazz from such artists as Miles Davis. But the bad news is rather worse. The new music is more costly, for the most part. Miles In The Sky has six cuts on it, and eMusic counts that as 12 downloads. Worse still, after my current subscription runs out, I'll get only 35 downloads a month for about $171 a year. That's less than half the downloads for sometimes twice the price.

But tempted though I am to complain, eMusic prices are still way below what I would pay at any other source. Here, if it works, is a chart I made on Excel:

191.99 75 12 0.21 2.56
171.99 35 12 0.41 4.91

The first line represents what I pay now. For 191.99 a year, I pay 21 cents a song, or $2.56 per twelve song album. I certainly can't beat that anywhere else. And a lot of jazz albums have fewer than 12 cuts.

Under the new plan, I pay 41 cents a cut and $4.91 a 12 song album. That ain't nearly as inviting, but it's still better than iTunes.

I am working on my laptop battery right now, and I am running out of juice. I'll finish this post as soon as I can, with a clip or so for hungry jazz fans.

Well, I'm back and still discombobulated, as my Arkansas relatives sometimes say. It's one thing to charge more than one credit per download for music newly available. But it looks to me as if some previously available discs have risen in their credit price. I can't be sure about this, but I believe that Eric Dolphy's Stockholm Sessions was there before, and now it's twelve credits for eight cuts.

Still, that's $2.56 under my current plan and five bucks if I wait until after next February. Right now the disc is available at iTunes for $5.99. You can get the plastic on Amazon for $17! Perhaps the most infuriating thing about eMusic's big price increase is that they still have the best deals around, so their fans are going to have to swallow it. Well, I guess they ain't in business to be loved.

Dolphy's Stockholm album is one of a marvelous set of albums recorded in 1961. How many Dolphys were there? The gems of this collection are his incomparable Five Spot recordings with Booker Little. But the rest of the bunch all represent vintage Dolphy live.

A similar case is the aforementioned Miles in the Sky. This is one of the string of recordings made by Miles' second quintet. All of these recordings demonstrate brilliance and moments of breathtaking beauty. But they are wildly uneven overall. E.S.P. is the best of them. In fact, I would rank it as one of Miles' ten best recordings. Miles in the Sky is a work that is valuable chiefly because it is part of this string. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the first listen and I will listen again. But it is a series of rambling, unstructured solos. It is one of those albums that would trigger the key words: workshop, exploration, and transitional, if a computer were grading it. I don't believe I have ever seen a copy in a record bin. In short, this is the kind of thing interesting mostly to collectors like myself. If anything ought to be available at a discount price, this is it.

Here are a couple of samples from the discs under inspection. Given 'em a listen, and if you like them bite the bullet and get the recordings. They're still cheap from the folks at eMusic.
Eric Dolphy/Miss Ann/Stockholm Sessions

Miles Davis/Black Comedy/Miles in the Sky

1 comment:

  1. Ken, I know that you will like this.
    Yesterday the Dutch national TV station aired coverage of the North Sea Jazz Festival 2009. It's 90 minutes of music featuring George Benson, BB King, Joe Bonamassa, Lee Ritenour, Toots Thielemans and Roy Hargrove. Here's the link: Enjoy!