Executive summary, in bullet-list form:
- eMusic is a good service.
- However, it's not obvious how to browse the catalog before signing up.
- Here is how: follow this link.
I won't have time to do any substantial posts in the near future, but I felt like sharing this little tip. I'm a big fan of eMusic, for reasons that I will not discuss at length for fear of sounding like a shill. It's not a perfect service --- why not OGGs and FLACs, eMusic? --- but it's DRM-free and good enough that I am willing to recommend it to friends.
However, they make one really huge mistake: they don't encourage users to browse the catalog before signing up for a trial account. That doesn't sound too bad, except that signing up for a trial account involves forking over your credit card info and other identifying information up front.
If you want to browse eMusic's catalog without signing up, you have to go to their home page and click the "Log in" link (as of this writing, this link's in the far upper right corner). Then, click on the "Browse" tab at the top of the login page. Ta-da: the catalog's fully accessible, so you can browse and listen to low-quality samples. Downloading full tracks will require you to sign up for an account, of course.
eMusic doesn't really restrict its catalog to users; it just makes the catalog obscure so that most non-users won't find it. I can imagine all kinds of reasons why they chose to do this, but IMO it's just an utterly boneheaded business decision. Many potential users will simply go away after they see that the entire front page directs them to a signup screen rather than the catalog. I was just on IM tonight with someone who had been meaning to try eMusic, but didn't sign up for exactly this reason.