Those crazy guys behind the LimeWire file-sharing application have set up a DRM-free music store--LimeWire Store--where users can choose from 500,000 MP3s, taken from the catalogs of absolutely no major labels. Alternatively, users can download free, lossless versions of millions of songs from every major label using the usual LimeWire "technique." Which, RIAA lawyers would likely argue, is illegal.
If skepticism were a flavor of ice cream, we'd be sitting here with the world's most excruciating brain freeze. Napster managed to redeem itself by having its name bought by another company, having its P2P application vanquished and by offering titles from major labels. LimeWire, however, still operates its hated-by-the-entertainment-industry network of downloaders, and we don't expect Sony or Warner Music to sign any distribution deals until its roster of artists are blocked from the controversial network.
To be fair, LimeWire's new service (which is currently in beta) could be a great place to go looking for new bands and underground artists. In contrast to eMusic's subscription model, LimeWire offers pay-per-track pricing, so you can quickly pick and choose your downloads without committing yourself to recurring monthly charges.
Downloads go for anything between 30 cents (15 pence) and 99 cents (50 pence), with subscriptions varying between $10 (5 pounds) a month for 25 songs, and $20 (10 pounds) a month for 75 songs. eMusic offers plans from 8.99 pounds for 30 songs a month, to 14.99 pounds for 75 songs a month, but it backs those with a library of three million songs. The LimeWire Store is also only available in the U.S., but we couldn't find a single song we'd want to buy for 15 pence anyway.
As a purely Web-based service at the moment, the site is at least attractive, with music reviews written by LimeWire's "real live music-loving employees, drawing upon their years of music industry experience." Terrific.
Maybe those people pirating FLAC files of Amy Whinehouse or Peter Andrex from LimeWire's usual service will have more love than we do. We think you'd be better off watching Encoded.