I was very pleased to get a subscription to magnatune.com as a Christmas from my wife. Magnatune is a bit like fair trade for musicians in that 50% of its revenue goes to its musicians and their terms and conditions are equitable and open. For example, magnatunes does not demand an exclusive deal from its musicians.
While you read this blog post, why not hit play on the little embedded player below and have a listen to an album I recently enjoyed from Magnatune?
Between Worlds by LYNX and Janover
It's not a competitor for iTunes though (but that didn't stop Apple rejecting the Magnatune app for a while) and as such don't expect to find any Lady Gaga amongst its 10,000 tracks. It does have a very wide variety of music that is of high quality in terms of recording and musicianship; this is to the credit of the site's founder John Buckman. Apparently he sifts through a large number of submissions and rejects more than 95% of them. At first this sounds like a weakness, but after listening to a dozen or so albums, I'm none-the-wiser as to what John Buckman's taste in music must be, except possibly that it must be very broad.
You don't need to subscribe to listen to the music, you can access it all for free via the website or via a variety of offline players including apps for both Android phones and iPhones. I mostly listen via an application called Amarok which is part of the KDE desktop environment. Magnatune donates some of its 50% to help with the development of such open source or free (FOSS) applications.
Before getting my subscription I enjoyed the messages that played between the songs. One of them went somthing like "Hi, I'm John Buckman's 76 year old neighbour. I don't much like most of the music on this site but you probably do because you're listening to it. Why not consider paying $15 for a subscription...". In addition to freeing you from such announcements, the subscription also permits you to download as many albums as you wish with zero DRM and even to share each album with three of your friends.
I applaud the good (i.e. not evil) folk behind Magnatune.com and wish them every success.