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
    V, 25 Jun 2009 @ 9:02am

    My recent letter to eMusic...

    Dear eMusic:

    I've been a loyal eMusic customer for a few years now ...And by "loyal," I mean that not only do I love your service, but since I became a subscriber, whenever the subject of digital music came up in conversation, I always made it a point to bring up eMusic, then literally praise it and urge others to subscribe. That being said, I am highly disappointed with the changes you plan on implementing in July.

    I understand after reading the letter from your CEO that the upcoming rate hike is mainly due to a) adding the entire Sony music catalog, and b) the hope that eMusic will now gain further attention from other major labels. Granted, 40-50 cents per track is still a better deal than most digital download services and therefore makes eMusic attractive to prospective customers, but I think you've lost sight of the fact that the new pricing structure is a very significant hit to your existing customer base. I could understand an occasional increase of a few cents/month or even an extra dollar or two per month (like last year), but with this new price change in July, you're literally just about doubling the cost to current subscribers.

    I'm currently on a plan that provides me 75 tracks/month - and being the music addict that I am, I need this higher plan considering my "Saved For Later" list hasn't dipped below 200 albums in quite a while. But now, in order to get the exact same number of downloads per month, I'm expected to pay $31/mo. instead of my current $16/mo.?! ...This is absolutely ridiculous in my opinion - in fact, when I read the new plan options, I honestly thought it was a mistake at first.

    Granted, for this higher price, I will now be able to download albums from the Sony catalog, but the reality is that I never asked for this. Instead, I was simply told that I will have to pay twice as much for something I didn't want. Even if I had petitioned eMusic for the addition of the Sony catalog, I would've said "no thanks" as soon as you told me that it would practically double the cost of my subscription in order to get it.

    Though it's been a tough decision given my previous love and advocacy for eMusic, I'm very sad to report that due to the lack of accommodating options for existing subscribers and the general inconsideration displayed by your company surrounding the proposed changes, I plan on cancelling my eMusic subscription out of principal when my renewal comes due in November (unless something drastically changes in the meantime).

    Please keep in mind the voice of a concerned loyal customer before going through with the proposed changes.

    Thank you for your consideration.

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