As eMusic Embraces Major Labels, Its Indie Core Is Leaving

from the as-if-that-wasn't-predictable dept

eMusic built itself up on a reputation for being a great way to get access to all sorts of indie music. The service, which has been around for ages, and pioneered offering authorized DRM-free MP3s, worked by letting you pay a certain subscription fee per month, which allowed you to download a specific number of songs. Over the years, the price went up, which upset some users, but things really took a turn last year when the company suddenly decided that it absolutely needed the major record labels in its collection. It started with the disastrous idea of adding Sony Music tracks at the same time as a big price increase… and then quietly trying to remove features (and then more features) without telling people. It also appeared that eMusic was deleting comments from critics. While the company denied this, there was a lot of evidence to support the claim.

Since then, the company has also added music from Warner Music and (just recently) Universal Music… but it hasn’t really helped. Its userbase has remained about the same, so if the new music is enticing new subscribers, they’re being offset by defections. But, more importantly, it looks like some of the bigger name indie labels are pulling their music off the site, as they can’t come to a reasonable agreement with eMusic.

So, if I’m reading all this correctly, it sure looks like the company did quite a deal: it signed up major labels to get music that most of its subscriber base didn’t want in the first place. In doing so it took away lots of popular features and jacked up prices. Now, the service is losing the content of some of the biggest indie bands.

This seems like a case study in not knowing your own audience.

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Companies: emusic

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Comments on “As eMusic Embraces Major Labels, Its Indie Core Is Leaving”

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33 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

aside from the burn u just got by nash. Say I hape pop music like brinet nickelplay and all those lame bands they play on the radio over and over. then i discover a site that has good indie music not from corporations, that’s the music i want and i assume most of the existing users. so by adding nickelplay to the list and jacking the prices they are neglecting their original audience for of a chance of profits

Erik says:

Re: Re:

This fact is actually true. All one had to do was camp out on eMusic’s facebook wall and watch the venom spew from its users to know most of eMu’s subscribers didn’t want additions from the major labels. I’d say 1 out of 20 comments supported the move. “Good” is an arbitrary term, and while I enjoy many mainstream artists, I have been an eMu subscriber for 5 years because of their indie offerings, not their mainstream offerings. Losing the major indie labels has greatly affected my future involvement with the site. While it still has a lot of good music to offer, it doesn’t offer enough of what I want to justify maintaining my current subscription.

PaulT (profile) says:

Yeah, eMusic is dead to me despite having over 100Gb of music I happily downloaded from them. I was a major advocate of theirs for a few years, and their subscription service really helped me expand my horizons and discover new artists and genres I would never have listened to otherwise.

…but then the majors came along. To be fair, this wasn’t the only thing wrong with their service but the price increase, coupled with enforced regional restrictions and the fact that the Sony catalogue wasn’t available outside the US made me quit, as did many regulars on the forums.

Of course, the losers in all that were the independent artists. My albums purchases have dropped from 10-12 albums per month (I had a 100 track subscription) to maybe 1 a month, sometimes less. I still buy from artists I know and love, but I’m not going to drop full CD prices for unfamiliar genres – and online retailers like Amazon and iTunes are either overpriced or won’t sell to me. So, smaller and developing artists have lost my money.

I had recently been considering signing up again to take a look at how things have changed, but I’m definitely not bothering now.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Heh, thought I’d just have a quick look over there to see how the changes have affected it anyway…

“We’re sorry, eMusic is not available in your country.”

I’m currently at work in Gibraltar, a British territory where I’ve had no problems accessing them in the past. In fact, virtually all the music I used to buy from them was paid for from this very desk.

Nice move, guys…

Anonymous Coward says:

Not only that but this month they are changing one of the most fundamental aspects of the entire service-instead of it being a subscription with a set number of downloads per month, the tracks will each be sold with a dollars and cents pricetag-arghh! This is supposed to give them access to more major-label catalogue but, as you have noted, many E-Music subscribers like myself have little interest in major label content-don’t they realize this? I’m sure I’m not the only customer who’s now considering calling it a day with them…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Someone should put together a site where the content owners can charge what ever they want using any of the method avialable out there.

Tier 0 – Free
Tier 1 – pay by song
Tier 1a – Amee street model (floating price)
Tier 2 – pay by albumn
Tier 3 – monthly fee limit to n songs per month
etc

If the labels come knocking say hey. You can already do that here, no agreement is needed. Set up an account and have someone import your music … you are responsible for the choices you make when you set this up….

out_of_the_blue says:

Looks like a case study in wiping out indies.

You don’t know the financials behind the scenes, so maybe Emusic (OR just its officers, more secretly) is making out just fine, having cut a deal with those major labels for precisely the purpose I titled. You’re just shoe-horning this into your notions, without any real data.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Looks like a case study in wiping out indies.

“You’re just shoe-horning this into your notions, without any real data.”

As are you.

What’s really more likely? That a company willingly restricts itself to just 4 suppliers who don’t meet much of their customers requirements is doing the smart thing (many of the artists on the departed labels are quite popular, especially in Europe)? Or that their attempts to appease an overbearing cartel have pushed competing suppliers away?

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

I'm sticking with emusic.

emusic is still cheaper than buying music from amazon or itunes, and that’s the only reason I’m keeping the service (and their free daily downloads have turned me on to a lot of new artists.) That said, I avoid downloading anything by a member of the RIAA out of principle.

Is it possible that there just aren’t enough people willing to pay for indie music for emusic to stay afloat? If you consider that indie music fans are probably dedicated music fans, the more righteous ones are going to buy directly from the artist so they can profit more, and the less righteous ones are going to pirate. emusic sits in the middle of all that.

emusic also knows they don’t have much competition. Where else will you find such a great deal on indie music?

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: I'm sticking with emusic.

I don’t know why the indie labels are going away. I doubt it’s because emusic doesn’t want them, and I doubt it’s because they want to limit the number of storefronts they have to sell music. Why can’t a website sell indie music and major label music? Just because major label music is there doesn’t mean you have to buy it. And they’re still selling tracks cheaper than other places.

whatsthematterwithkansas says:

Re: I'm sticking with emusic.

Whoa, there, jupiterkansas: depends on what you are buying. Many albums are much cheaper to download from Amazon. Arcade Fire, for example. Funeral is a $5 download right now at Amazon. At eMusic it should be about $6. . .let me check. . .oh wait, eMusic lost Arcade Fire! eMusic fails.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: I'm sticking with emusic.

Yes, a lot of the latest and greatest might be on sale elsewhere cheaper for a limited time, but those are sale prices that will go up where emusic stays the same. I don’t usually buy the latest and greatest – I buy a lot of older albums – so I don’t think about that much. Buy Arcade Fire while it’s cheaper, and save those emusic downloads for something else.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I'm sticking with emusic.

“I don’t usually buy the latest and greatest – I buy a lot of older albums – so I don’t think about that much”

Clearly not…

First of all, look at the main subject of this conversation. You seem to be defending eMusic as a major, inexpensive supplier for indie music. Yet, the article itself is about how not only have prices increased significantly over recent years, but the indie labels are leaving. It seems a bit strange to defend them for providing a service they’re no longer supplying (hint: the Arcade Fire album is on a label that’s just been removed).

As for “latest and greatest”, the album in question here was released in 2004. While Amazon’s pricing does seem cheaper than other sites (a quick check of a few others shows around $9), there’s no indication I can see that it’s a temporary special offer. Even if it is, it seems to be a sale on a large number of albums (for example, Neon Bible by the same band is $3.99, as is Florence And The Machines’ Lungs, an excellent album on a major label). Lots of bargains, especially for someone buying back catalogue titles.

Given that eMusic have made life difficult for indie labels in order to appease the RIAA, it seems a little strange for somebody who defends the indie music scene to support them, just to make a completely non-guaranteed saving on music that’s several years old.

Don’t get me wrong, you would have had an excellent argument a few years ago (and one I would have made in defence of them myself), but how are you going to use them as a cheap indie resource when they no longer supply indie product?

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I'm sticking with emusic.

By older albums I meant from the 70s and 80s. I wouldn’t call and album from 2004 old. It’s long been a trend that when a band gets popular their earlier albums sell for less.

I’m not entirely defending emusic, I’m just not jumping on the hate bandwagon because they’re adding major label music, even though I don’t buy major label music. Most of the major label stuff I want shows up at the public library anyway.

I was trying to point out that there were no reasons given why the indie labels are no longer available and I’d love to know the reason and love to see them come back. Unfortunately emusic making major changes at the same time they add major label content makes them look really bad, and prices keep inching up to the point where subscribing to emusic is no longer worth it. I don’t think they’ve reached that point quite yet, but I will start price checking everything I buy against Amazon.

I’d love a website where every recording ever made was easily available a a good price, but right now only the Pirate Bay fits that description. How much is Arcade Fire there?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 I'm sticking with emusic.

“By older albums I meant from the 70s and 80s. I wouldn’t call and album from 2004 old.”

Subjective. How many indie albums are there remaining from the 70s/80s, anyway, since so many of them have been bought up by RIAA members in the meantime? Depending on their contracts, artists signed to defunct labels that have been sold on may see nothing – if they’re still alive at all.

Besides, you said “older” vs. “latest and greatest”. By your definition, that Arcade Fire album is neither – unless you’re defining “latest and greatest” as 6 years old. In which case you, the labels and most of media have a disagreement on a fundamental scale.

That’s not to say older material doesn’t have its worth, but most sales do take place in the first year or 2, and that’s where this battle will most likely be fought.

“I’m just not jumping on the hate bandwagon because they’re adding major label music”

The “hate bandwagon” is nothing of the sort. They’re being criticised for adding major label content *at the expense* of both indie bands and existing customers. If the majors would play fair, or eMusic would support their existing base, there would be no relevant discussion. As it is, all are getting screwed at the behest of the majors.

“I was trying to point out that there were no reasons given why the indie labels are no longer available “

Again, RTFA. It’s all laid out.

“I’d love a website where every recording ever made was easily available a a good price, but right now only the Pirate Bay fits that description.”

The problem with the modern music industry in a nutshell, and why they won’t make any headway against “piracy” until they change their methods.

I’d also love such a site, but none exist and so my money goes unspent.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I'm sticking with emusic.

and here’s a reason why new albums on Amazon are selling for $3.99. They’re desperate to hit #1 so they can get free press from the main stream media that’s so happy to talk about what’s selling rather than what’s good – not that I blame them. It’s easy to quote numbers but you have to stand behind quality.

http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2010/11/the_reason_why_1.php

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 I'm sticking with emusic.

Which new albums? I referenced music over 7 years old and and album that hit 4x platinum in its home country. One of my favourite albums over the last 2 years, btw.

What is it you’re trying to say? Not selling (demonstrably untrue) or low quality (subjective)? We’re talking indie rock albums here, btw, not boy bands and X factor winners.

Natas says:

One by one, they've fallen

I’m so frustrated with the “enhancements” that eMusic has made and I’m currently engaged in a bitter internal struggle over whether or not to cancel my long-standing subscription. I’m a huge fan of indie music and sites like eMusic have done so much to introduce me to bands and sounds that I’d never have found or considered otherwise.

Sadly, every indie music site I’ve used or subscribed to over the years has either folded or sold out:

First Audiolunchbox, then Aimestreet, and now eMusic.

I’ve been scouring the web to find a suitable replacement, but so far, no luck.

Sean (profile) says:

I'm close to leaving...

I’ve been a member of eMusic a long time. When I first signed up, it was $9/month for 40 downloads. Then it went up to 10$/month. Then to $12/month. Then they dropped the number of downloads available at the $12 level to 24 — but I got to stay at 30 downloads because I was a long time customer. Now its $12/month, and, at best you get 24 downloads ($0.49/track). I’ve got a couple of months at half price because I complained, but after that, I’m really not sure.

I guess, if I can find enough tracks each month at the $0.49 level, it’s still worth it. But I’m not sure I can. And finding the sort of things I like will be even more difficult, because I’ll have to plow through a bunch of crap I never wanted to see.

They’ve got to do what ever they can to keep the company profitable and to make it more profitable. But I think they’re alienating a lot of us who enjoyed the low prices and perks of the service.

Jon Noowtun says:

It also appeared that eMusic was deleting comments from critics.

Don’t you mean “shills” and “fanbois”? Of course their comments should be deleted!!!!! Just like I delete any and all comments on my site coming from shills and fanbois!!!!! Half the posts on my site don’t have any comments at all because I have to keep censor… I mean deleting the shill/fanboi comments!!!!!

Oh, make sure to support my fight to protect free speech in Canada!!!!!

http://www.Pee2PeeNet.net

RonM (profile) says:

I’ve been an eMusic user for quite some time and have hundreds of tracks downloaded. I’ve always been a comparison shopper, though; since I prefer lossless files if there is a lossless source I’ll usually go there, unless it’s too pricey. For lossy files like eMusic’s, I have always been mindful of price. Even the old model, so much for so many tracks, comes down to a track price, and eMusic often was the cheapest. Not always. Still is in many cases, and if it’s not I’ll buy somewhere else. I do find that emusic’s rip quality is higher than CD Baby, but newer iTunes are as good or better, albeit requiring conversion since I don’t use the evil empire’s players if I can avoid it.

I don’t see the new pricing model as a barrier, as it comes down to the same thing — price per track. If the cost goes up, that will be factored in. There might even be some tracks I want in the big labels, not everyone high profile sucks.

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