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
    PaulT (profile), 3 Jun 2009 @ 8:15am

    It's even better than that from an international perspective. The price rises hit everyone, but the Sony stuff is US only! So, those of us in Europe pay more than the already inflated prices we paid before (thanks to different pricing structures and exchange rates) but get no new content in return.

    The major problem with this is that indie labels will get hit. Hard. One of the major benefits of eMusic was that its subscription model encouraged experimentation. My 100 track/month plan would only get 60-70% used on albums I planned to buy, leaving between 2 and 5 albums worth of credits to spend on music I was unfamiliar with. These purchases will be the first casualty of the price rises.

    I've been a happy eMusic user for nearly 3 years, and would rarely hesitate to either defend eMusic against "anti-indie" trolls that would surface or to recommend them to like-minded people. It's a shame that I may no longer do this, but I'm basically stuck with them until stores like Play and Amazon are actually allowed to sell to me.

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