Amazon MP3 sells the Mekons album “Natural” for $8.99 as unprotected MP3s. There are 12 songs, so that’s $0.75 per song. Sold separately, they’re $0.99 per song. I haven’t played with the site much, but searching seems weak. Playing tracks is easy.
iTunes has it for $9.99 as protected AAC files, but includes two bonus tracks. That’s $0.71 per song. (The bonus tracks seem to be variants of other songs — nice to have but not essential.) Sold separately, they’re $0.99 per song. Searching is excellent — I really like the feature that must have been added recently, where band names are suggested as you type in the “Search iTunes Store” field. Playing tracks is easy.
eMusic has the same 12 songs as unprotected MP3s. Their basic subscription gives you 30 downloads a month for $9.99. That’s $0.33 per song (there’s no discount for buying an entire album). It looks like eMusic changed their plans slightly since I subscribed, but I think that by paying for a year in advance, I get 40 tracks a month for $9.99 — $0.25 per song. A much better deal, and in my opinion worth the crappier web interface (I usually sample songs on iTunes). Searching is OK, but playing tracks is a pain (I get a .m3u file I have to open separately). Oh, and eMusic has free tracks, sometimes entire albums of good stuff (e.g. “A Marmoset Menagerie”).
For what it’s worth, I got the Mekons CD as a birthday present. Amazon sells it for $13.99, or $1.17 per song. But it’s encoded at CD quality, includes liner notes, and is a backup for the version I ripped to my computer.
I’m happy with the CD, but I would have been almost as happy getting the music from eMusic.
I realize most people have different tastes, and may be more interested in the major label stuff that might not be on eMusic. But I do almost all my purchasing from eMusic — currently 1471 songs (which includes free tracks) compared to 1229 songs (including about 150 free tracks) from iTunes. Getting songs for 1/4 the price is worth the inconvenience, and some of the free stuff would have been worth buying.