Introduction

Why is this here?

A while ago, back in the days when you could only get DRMed music in proprietary formats that wouldn't play on your favorite player/operating system, the EFF (I think) published a list of web shops that sold music in an standard format without any strings attached ‒ MP3. Here is that list, but as it gets increasingly common to offer music in standard formats ‒ even for non-indie music ‒ it's pretty outdated by now.

Even then, I grew frustrated with shopping for music since you can't find every piece of music in all places. And the music industry has had the last word on region discrimination: if you live in Germany, you cannot buy from Amazon's US MP3 shop, and on some sites you bump into pages saying "Nyah, Nyah, we won't let you buy this since you come from a country the artist doesn't care about". Duh. Hence this list.
Update: Wikipedia has a Comparison of online music stores. Cool.

The Actual List

Places for your music shopping

Magnatunes
Magnatunes is a music-label-and-music-shop that has been started as a way to be nicer to both listeners and musicians. Musicians get half of the sales, which is much nicer than the peanuts they usually get, and customers can preview songs in full, instead of having to guess what a song is like from a random 30-second snippet. They're a cool bunch of people, easy to like, but what you'll find there is the reportoire of the artists they have under contract: usually good stuff, but if you look for something specific, you may or may not find it there.

Magnatunes has recently discontinued album sales and switched over to a subscription model where you pay 45$/3 months and can download everything you want. (Which is more than at least I normally spend on music, but you can still preview all the tracks in full, without having a subscription, which is nice).

Amazon.de
Amazon has finally gotten around to offer the same MP3 shop that they have in the US also in Germany. The same? No, stupid, due to sales restrictions, you won't get everything, even though you'll really find most things.

Musicload.de
Backed by Deutsche Telekom, Musicload.de is the 800-pound-gorilla among the German download services. It's pretty big, and you'll find most of the stuff if you know what you want or just want to have what everyone wants. Downsides? Ads that get in the way, you can only find something if you know the title, and the preview works only halfway even when you have the MPlayer-plugin installed (it's not flash-based, but works with Microsoft's mediaplayer plugin instead, which works less well on non-Windows platforms).

7digital
I didn't know 7digital before I found them. It's a UK-based shop, apparently. Navigation is so-so (okayish), but the site's design is nice and clean. I like them.

Amie Street
Amie Street started out as another utopic experiment: They sell any music that they get offered, starting at 0 cents (yes, free), eventually going up to 100 cents per track as people buy more of the albums. Amie Street's bet is that user-generated indications for navigation and quality work &emdash; so far, I think it does work, regardless of whether you've got general interests or are looking for something in a specific niche, and whether you like to find proven, generally acclaimed music (high pricepoint) or whether you like to ferret around for the hidden jewels.

the ground
The ground is a Finnish CD and MP3 shop that has mostly Finnish bands, but also some mainstream content (of which most is restricted to Finnish customers, I think). I like their clean site design and straightforward navigation.

Gimell Records
Gimell Records is the label of the Tallis Scholars, a highly acclaimed choir that does (mostly) Renaissance music. So, if you like Renaissance music, and you like their style, this is where you need to go.

ClassicsOnline
ClassicsOnline is a music shop that is operated by the Hongkong-based Naxos label (which I fondly remember since I was young and made nice catches of classical music in the bargain bin of a large department store). ClassicalOnline's library is pretty big, with dozens of subscribed labels (including, e.g., Carus, which generally makes high-quality music). The navigation is ok-ish although confusing at times. One annoying thing: If you don't have their download manager (which only exists for Windows and MacOSX), you'll have to click on each song individually to download it. Apparently, these people have never heard of .zip files. Update: ClassicsOnline uses a version of the EMusicJ download manager, which also exists for Linux (in fact, was originally written for Linux). Downloading (and installing) the Windows or Mac client, then putting the classicsonline.jar and classicsonline.properties files in EMusicJ's lib/ directory and changing the main class name in the start script gives you a working download manager.

(In)Famous last words

What's not to like?

Despite deliberately locking out a sizeable portion of potential customers, Apple's iTunes is doing really well, holding the title to being the most successful online music store. Whatever. I'm happy to give my money to The Other Guys if Apple doesn't want it, and it's nice to see that you do have a choice, and that the choice is nicely broad.
While smaller retailers like Magnatunes, Gimell, or even Amazon (who shouldn't be called a small retailer, but has fewer titles than musicload or ClassicsOnline) make it easy to find what you like, their smaller selection makes you want to go to their larger-catalog counterparts. Until you get put off by small details such as dysfunctional navigation, or having to spend a couple minutes clicking on a dozen of links because neither zip files nor download manager are offered (not even Firefox's DownItAll works... the friendly people at ClassicOnline have thought it necessary to make these javascript links).
From seeing large mail order shops such as JPC, or the German music industry's pan-German music catalogue musicline, a site where you can get 30-second snippets of everything the music industry is willing to sell you, it is clear that it is, in fact, possible to let users navigate efficiently through humongeously big catalogues. However, musicload, despite being a Deutsche Telekom-backed 800-pound gorilla and making TV adverts, doesn't get this right. Their site is a pain to navigate. Then I noticed that musicline displays ads from musicload saying "Download this song as MP3? Click HERE!". Click on the ad, and you get to... musicload's homepage. You nearly had me there - why not actually make it work?
Musicline does have links to different (mail-order) online shops, including Amazon, jpc, and others. So it's not like they keep you away from your much-needed retail therapy.

Blog posts

The brave new world of search engines
In an earlier post, I talked about current Google's search results in terms of personalization, and whether to like it or not. This post takes another aspect of 2011 Google search: what they do with complex queries. (more...)

Simple Pattern extraction from Google n-grams
Google has released n-gram datasets for multiple languages, including English and German. For my needs (lots of patterns, with lemmatization), writing a small bit of C++ allows me to extract pattern instances in bulk, more quickly and comfortably than with bzgrep. (more...)

Where to buy Music
After searching around a disproportionate time to find nice music that I want to buy, I decided to compile this list of internet shops that sell music in MP3 format to German citizens. (And no, I can't/won't use iTunes unless they make a Linux client).

Useful links

WCDG parser.
The Weighted Constraint Dependency Grammar parser which is one of the best parsers for German that you can get. It's available under an open source license and there is an online demo.

BitPar and SFST.
Helmut Schmid has written several tools that may come in useful in your next NLP application, including the TreeTagger, a decision-tree based part of speech tagger, BitPar, a fast PCFG parsing engine, and SFST, a set of highly useful tools for finite-state morphology analysis.

Conditional Random Fields.
Hanna Wallach has a very useful link collection on Conditional Random Fields. I'd recommend especially her tutorial on CRFs (which is also the introductory part of her MSc thesis) as well as Simon Lacoste-Juliens tutorial on SVMs, graphical models, and Max-Margin Markov Networks (also linked there).

Nice blogs

Language Log
NLPers
hunch.net
Technologies du Langage
Earning my Turns
Leiter Reports