eMusic makes me a sad panda

June 15, 2009
music rants

I’ve been a happy happy joy joy subscriber at eMusic since 2005. I wasn’t sure what I thought initially when Lee clued me into it (indie music being a new thing for me), but after that first month I was hooked. Took me a few months and then I bumped up to the annual subscription option. Until recently, my most recent subscription plan worked out to $16/month, which got me 90 tracks a month. Not bad considering the $0.99/track (or $9.99/album) you’d get at iTunes (not sure how their current pricing scheme works out, but it’s close enough for this discussion). The key distinction to me revolved around the subscription scheme instead of a-la-carte (so they’ve charge less but presumably can expect a steady flow of cash coming in) and the emphasis on indie music labels. So the biggest complaint for many potential consumers (and the reason they left after their initial 30 free tracks) was the lack of mainstream/top 40/major label music. But eMusic filled a nice niche for those of us who were more interested in finding cool new music that was outside the mainstream. If you wanted mainstream stuff, you could always go to iTunes, Amazon, Walmart, Rhapsody, Napster, etc etc. But eMusic was fantastic for indie stuff. At the price point they were charging (especially for my “grandfathered” subscription), you could try stuff out even if you’d never heard of it, and even if you did end up with a fair bit of chaff, there was still plenty of wheat in there to make it a good deal. And it exposed indie artists to a much wider audience (I know I ended up buying physical CDs for a bunch of stuff I picked up on eMusic to support the artists I really enjoyed).

That was all until recently when they announced that they’d signed a deal to get access to some of Sony’s back-catalog (i.e., stuff that’s at least a couple years old), were eliminating all grandfathered subscriptions, and putting in a significant price hike for all. I believe just prior to this, you could get 50 tracks a month for $16. The new plan they plan on switching me over to as soon as my current annual subscription runs out is 35 tracks a month for $16. I can accept that they may need to cut back on plans like mine due to the incredibly low price per track, but such a drastic change makes me want to kick them to the curb as soon as my contract’s up and take my business elsewhere. Really seems like they should give existing subscribers the option to keep their existing plan (or at least the previous incarnation, before the recent hike) and restrict us to the indie labels. I really couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the major label stuff. As I said, if I wanted it, I’d go elsewhere. I came to eMusic for what made them different. But now that their wanting to be like everyone else. Guess I’ll need to find some place new to get my indie music fix. :(

CEO’s blog post and the ~1500 mostly negative posts about this