Did No One At eMusic Think About PR Impact Of Raising Prices At The Same Time Sony Signed?

from the braindead-PR dept

eMusic is a rather successful indie music e-commerce player (reports put it at the 2nd largest music store), that has focused on charging people a subscription that lets them download a limited number of songs each month. It also supported DRM-free MP3 files long before others finally came around. I have many friends who love the convenience that eMusic provides (I tried it, and didn't find enough of the music I liked to stick around) and are willing to pay for the convenience alone. However, it's almost hard to believe that no one on the PR/marketing side of eMusic failed to predict what would happen this week when the company made two announcements: that it had signed its first major label, Sony, and that it was raising prices. The reaction was quick and almost universally negative.

The complaints hit on a number of points, but the two big ones (obviously) are the price increase and the fact that many people signed up with eMusic because of its indie music focus, and related to that: their dislike of major record labels. What's stunning is that eMusic couldn't foresee what a negative reaction this would bring. The company has raised prices in the past, which also created some level of anger -- but people had to know that announcing both the Sony deal and the price raise at the same time, was going to be a PR nightmare. What I can't understand is why they didn't separate out the announcements. They may have felt it was a "pulling the bandaid off quickly" sort of moment, where they could take flak for both announcements at the same time, but they didn't seem to consider the fact that the two issues are completely linked in users' minds. It's not "eMusic had to raise prices" and "eMusic added Sony music." It's become: "eMusic had to raise prices to get Sony Music's catalog into the system."

That makes both eMusic and Sony Music look dreadful -- because here's a major record label, whose music many eMusic subscribers didn't want in the first place, now being seen as having made life worse (and more expensive) for everyone. By connecting the two issues, it seems like both eMusic and Sony Music are getting hit a lot harder than if the announcements had been separated.

Filed Under: major labels, music, subscriptions
Companies: emusic, sony

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  1. icon
    Dave (profile), 3 Jun 2009 @ 8:08am

    Price increase already chasing people away

    I'm a long-time eMusic subscriber who has done affiliate marketing for eMusic on my podcast (daveslounge.com) for the better part of three years, and I'm quite conflicted by this.

    On the one hand, I'm not happy that eMusic is jacking up the prices at the same time that they're adding major label music, especially since I'm as anti-RIAA as anyone and view this as an obvious concession to Sony that offers no real benefit to eMusic's core customers -- especially all those customers I encouraged to sign-up.

    On the other hand, the increase for me is only $0.16 a song (from $0.24 to $0.40), which ultimately is still a better deal than iTunes or Amazon, and I know well enough to avoid Sony's music. If you only download indie music from eMusic, only the indie music makers get paid.

    That said, a few friends of mine are already using the #eMusicFAIL tag on Twitter and dropping the service, and I'm pondering doing the same. It's kind of a shame, though, because I encourage people to buy the music they hear on my podcast -- all non-RIAA artists/labels, of course -- and it's still cheaper per song to do that with eMusic than with anything else. Not sure what to do about this yet.

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