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. identicon
    Michael, 3 Jun 2009 @ 8:51am

    Re: Wha?

    I'd rather pay for music if it was in the form of a service that has absolutely no limits and is very easy to use and has features that are useful and innovative. I'd really rather not have to put up with questionable quality and the pain of searching out music elsewhere for free that could be had inexpensively all in one place with no limits to where and how I transfer the music.

    Hell, if I never had to download music ever again except to my portable device (which must also be without limitations), then I would have zero complaints about paying for it. I'd even put up with advertising if it was relevant to what I'm looking for, such as band t-shirts, box sets, concert tickets/dates, etc.

    I'm optimistic that we're headed that direction and iTunes will probably make that the popular method of media distribution, though I'm not so optimistic about the major labels and their cooperation in all this. I'm afraid they, with the plethora of copyrighted content, are going to die a slow, painful death that will only amount to many forward thinkers that tried to help, giving them a collective "I told you so."

    At this point, if the labels wanted a way to ease the pain and look for a way out of all this, they'd be wise to sell back the rights to the content they hold to the creators at an adjusted, but clearly reasonable rate depending on content popularity. Perhaps even turn that into an incentive, such as selling back the rights through a interest type loan system that offers exceptional services to the creators that allow them to connect to people and other business services without them lifting a finger. They might even make a bit of a profit off that.

    At least they would seem relevant to the artists they're supposed to represent and it would give them time to find a model that will be attractive to new artists. One where artists will actually WANT to sign with the label for their services, while still leaving distribution control of content in the creators' hands. The labels are going to have to learn that their place is now as a service and not as content protectors. Most artists are realizing that they don't want better content protection, but better content distribution.

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