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
    Dave, 14 Jun 2009 @ 10:22am

    PR disaster

    Yeah, I think the main thing is that it looks like they did no PR management and no customer marketing research before going ahead with this plan. Also, as a musician who sells stuff on emusic (as well as being a subscriber) I find the lack of info about the price increase on the other side (i.e. will I be making more per download now or is all the overflow going to Sony) disturbing.

    I also think they should have raised prices rather than lowering downloads. People can understand price increases; they will never understand service decreases. Plus, psychologically, it's a lower number they have to deal with. If you're subscription goes up from $10-$15 that's a $5 difference rather than 20 download loss. (Or whatever it is...I'm not dealing with the real numbers)

    These folks clearly didn't do any research on the impact of this decision so I'm canceling my subscription, if for nothing less than the fact than I don't want to reward executive incompetence. Plus, I'm assuming they have a plan (or are going to put one place soon) to woo back dropped subscriptions unless they have enough reserves to cover the 6 months or so before they're able to replace the income from the dropped subscriptions.

    I used to hang on to my grandfathered 90 download emusic plan since I knew I wouldn't get that deal again, now I don't have to. I can quit and come back in at any time with essentially the same plan they're lowering mine to. I can sign up for a month, grab the albums I want and not have those months where I'm just downloading stuff I have an interest in hearing but wouldn't actually buy if I was paying full price for it. I think they seriously have misjudged their customers and the value of their service. But hey, I could be wrong. Time will tell.

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