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
    Slatemass, 3 Jun 2009 @ 11:42am

    Long-time eMusic Subscriber

    As a life time music collector, I happily signed up with eMusic soon after they started and have never really torrented music.

    In the early days $10 USD per month would give you virtual unlimited downloads (although they would complain if you pigged out at the buffet table when you reached over 2000 tracks per month).

    I've lived through two different plan structures and related price increases, seen great labels come and go, and seen some nice user interface improvements.

    I'm all for eMusic being profitable, but am starting to question the value of my future plan when it renews in Novemeber especially in the number of tracks drop, the prices go up, and many of the items aren't even available in Canada. I currently get 65 tracks a month on a yearly plan (20% discount) for only $172.50 a year CDN.

    Yeah, a totally wicked deal and I know it. I have never cared for the major labels and "popular" music. This is the reason I can always find something to download every month.

    The best thing about eMusic is the ability to experiment with new artists and genres. I've broadened my punk snesibilities to include alt-country and electronica. When the number of tracks drop, prices go up and there is less room for new groups to present themselves as the Sony catalog takes over, I will be much more careful in my selections and unfortunately new artists or undiscovered one will remain in the background.

    Despite intending a different outcome, eMusic has always been very, very poor at customer service and working with their existing customer base rather than the potential non-susbcribers they may attract.

    This is just another example of poor optics and even worse communication by eMusic management.

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