Limewire, the file sharing service where I'd be shocked, shocked I say to find pirated music, has launched a DRM-free digital music store offering half a million MP3s for as little as 27 cents per track. The good news? Pretty good sound quality and no restrictions. The bad news? You never heard of anybody on the list of artists.
Users of the application will eventually see "buy" links alongside options to download songs for free from other users using BitTorrent or Gnutella technology. Those who don't want to install the LimeWire P2P application can already access the LimeWire Store online.
At 256 Kbps, LimeWire's MP3s are relatively high-quality files, which could entice some to buy a given track rather than downloading a potentially inferior-sounding version for free. On the other hand, there's plenty of music encoded at 320 Kbps MP3 and various lossless formats on the P2P networks.
There's a sliding scale of membership fees for subscription levels that range from free to $20 a month. The free user would pay $0.99 per song downloaded. That sounds suspiciously like an iTunes Store price. And I've heard of the bands on iTunes. But if you're intent on giving emo kids with an old DAT and Audacity in their mom's basement some money, Limewire lets you do it.