<a href="http://arstechnica.infopop.net/OpenTopic/page?a=tpc&s=50009562&f=174096756&m=4990984905&r=4990984905">read about this</a> on <a href="http://www.arstechnica.com/">ars technica</a>.
Universal Music has apparently smartened up a little and come out with the first (potentially) viable business model for selling music online. they took their catalogue of older, hard to find albums and put them online. for a fairly low rate, you can get unlimited access to download mp3s. i haven't actually plopped down the money yet, but it looks intriguing.
i've always used napster and the various p2p networks to find music that i just can't find for sale in stores on CD, and to check out new bands without having to actually spend money only to find that they suck.
<a href="http://www.emusic.com/">emusic</a> seems to have come pretty far to meet my desire to find older, hard to find stuff. the prices are low enough (as long as you have a broadband connection) to be appetizing. download speeds are rumored to be pretty good. the ars technica article mentions that the mp3s are only 128kb/s, which isn't ideal, but is as good as 80% of the crap you find on napster anyway. having somthing of a guarantee that the albums were ripped well is probably worth the cost of the subscription alone. all the other attempts at selling music online have been pretty lame; either they insist on using some copy protected format that prevents you from burning backups or mixes (and usually don't have a linux player for) or the prices are too high and the selection too small.
the only thing holding me back from signing up now is that i'd still prefer a system where the record companies were just out of the equation entirely. if artists owned their own work and all got together and set up a similar system to sell their music online, that would be ideal.
so i'm considering signing up. whatever i do, i'll be watching closely to see if it succeeds.