eMusic is the little music service that could.
The company has been around since just about the dawn of the MP3 era, yet it's rarely mentioned in the same breath as Amazon and iTunes or Rhapsody and Spotify. Heck, it's rarely mentioned at all.
And yet it chugs along, offering one of the better deals on music downloads you'll find anywhere. In fact, if you sign up for a free 14-day trial, the deal just got a little sweeter.
Specifically, when you register for an eMusic subscription, you'll get a $17.50 credit, which is good for up to 35 songs. Previously the credit was only $10. That's not quite double the free-music goodness, but it's still a few albums' worth of songs for a total cost of zero.
After your two-week trial expires, you'll be on the hook for an eMusic subscription -- unless you cancel first, which is totally your prerogative. If you do cancel, you get to keep your downloads. (They're DRM-free MP3s, after all.)
That said, allow me to make the case for keeping your subscription going. eMusic's membership plans start at $11.99 per month. That lets you browse some 10 million tracks, which are priced as low as 49 cents apiece.
So let's say you want to buy Neon Trees' "Picture Show." iTunes charges $7.99 for the album; Amazon, $6.99. eMusic's price: $5.99. The service is typically a couple bucks less on albums, and sometimes as much as 50 percent less on individual tracks.
To put it another way, if you typically buy at least 12 dollars' worth of music each month, eMusic offers the biggest bang for the buck. And if your monthly music budget is even higher, you can save even more: higher subscription plans net you more credit. For example, the $20.99/month plan gives you $22.99 to spend.
Of course, if you buy only the occasional song or album, an eMusic subscription doesn't make much sense. But a free no-obligation trial with a $17.50 credit? That makes all kinds of sense.