If you'd like to try before you buy, BurnItFirst offers a free preview from its Web site. The browser-based preview lets you search through the BurnItFirst catalog and sample 30-second streams. Once you're ready to buy, download the BurnItFirst application, created by parent company Liquid Audio. Thankfully, it's quite simple to install. The app works exactly like the browser preview, except that it adds downloading, burning, and organizing functionalities. The left part of the screen contains lists that you can browse, such as Top 10 Downloads and New Releases, as well as genre lists such as Contemporary, Dance, and Inspirational. Click a list, and the songs will display in the center. CD cover art or your account information will display on the right side. While BurnItFirst shows cover art for most of its tracks, it doesn't display artist information or biographies.
A mixed bag of features
BurnItFirst lets you keep your downloads after you stop being a member, which is a feature we'd love to see RealOne MusicPass and Pressplay adopt. It offers some other nice tricks, too, such as the ability to transfer songs to portable players and the ability to create CDs full of whatever music you wish; there's no requirement that these be compilations, as with Pressplay. But we ran into some hitches: you download music in LQT format, proprietary to Liquid Audio, and each song includes digital security so that you can burn it only three times. And BurnItFirst has been tested to work with only certain Nomad, Rio, and Iomega players. And it works with those players only if you're running Windows 2000 or XP.
BurnItFirst encodes downloads at a passable but not fantastic 128Kbps, which is standard among subscription services. Sign up, and you get 20 downloads in a one-month period but no streams, as BurnItFirst doesn't allow full-song streaming, unlike Pressplay and RealOne MusicPass. However, you can download entire albums with one click, which is a nice feature also shared by eMusic. Plus, BurnItFirst keeps track of all of your downloads and locates MP3 and WMA files on your computer so that you can manage your library from its file window. If you run out of downloads, you can buy five-download Pack-Tracks for $4.95 each.
BurnItFirst's biggest drawback is its limited selection of tunes. For the same $9.95 per month, you can have access to a lot more songs with eMusic or Rhapsody. Liquid Audio is clearly betting that users will pay a premium to download Christian music. Even so, you'll find limited options within that small niche. For example, most albums in the catalog don't include every song. In its FAQ, BurnItFirst says that it doesn't carry new albums until they've been in the stores for 90 days.
Not very tempting
Beyond the limited offerings, we found BurnItFirst cold and uninviting. It offers no community features, such as Pressplay's message boards, so you can't share your experience or your favorite tunes.
Still, there's no denying that its song downloading and transferring features are miles ahead of those of RealOne MusicPass and Pressplay, if not as liberal as those of eMusic. BurnItFirst will certainly please many Christian music fans, but with a beefed-up catalog and some community features, it could please many more people, as well.