eMusic Tries To Defend Price Increase... Still Seems To Be Missing The Point

from the nice-try dept

We recently posted about the incredibly poor communications job eMusic did in announcing a price increase at the same exact time as it signed up with Sony Music, its first major record deal. For many eMusic customers, the two events were (not surprisingly) seen as being connected. Even worse, some users were then apparently censored when complaining about it. There was a little mini-drama after we posted about that -- as eMusic contacted us to insist that it was absolutely not true, and that they had not deleted any comments. So we updated the post... and then more and more people demonstrated increasingly damning proof that eMusic flat out lied to us, and that they had, in fact, removed comments.

Either way, eMusic's CEO spoke with Wired earlier this week to try to explain the situation and defuse some of the controversy, and the best he could come up with was basically claiming that the price increase had nothing to do with Sony Music at all, but that it was the indie labels who had been demanding it. So why tie the announcement to the Sony announcement?
We were looking for a "catalyzing event" to do it. And really, the catalyzing event is adding catalog, adding more content. We used this as an opportunity to do it, but we didn't do it because of Sony. We did it because in order to sustain the economics for our label suppliers and their artists, we needed to do it.
While this is what I had assumed happened in my original post, it still doesn't excuse the actions of the company. It makes you wonder how eMusic could be so tone deaf to the sort of customers it has (folks who love indie music, for the most part), that they would think that people wouldn't automatically associate the inclusion of a major record label's content with the price increase. Waiting for a "catalyzing event" doesn't make much sense -- especially when that "catalyzing" might not be at all what users want.

Filed Under: music, price increase
Companies: emusic, sony

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  • identicon
    Dave Barnes, 18 Jun 2009 @ 7:27pm

    We cancelled our subscription today

    No more $11.99/mo going to eMusic.
    Will not return.
    They just kissed off easy money from us.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dohn Joe, 18 Jun 2009 @ 7:53pm

    Ask for Permission?

    They better have asked for my permission or else VISA will get a phone call to cancel a payment!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2009 @ 8:25pm

    I miss the good old days when Emusic first started. $15 a month for unlimited downloads. Once they got rid of that I got rid of them. Still have many many gigs of electronic music I got from them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TJ, 18 Jun 2009 @ 9:19pm

    A bit soft

    You seem a bit soft on eMusic about the whole lying to you thing, especially contrasted to the tone in other items where you don't care for or agree with someone's actions.

    Apparently this is another music company that thinks pissing off its customers is a good business model. Either that or they've done the math that a new kind of customer will attract more business than they'll lose from their old customers. Considering their new rates relative to the competition, it seems unlikely that could be right.

    I dumped them after less than a year, more than a year ago now. I wonder if they've made any progress on the two things that led me to leave besides less than ideal bitrates. 1) They expire points on a 30 day cycle, not a monthly cycle, so instead of knowing 'points expire on the 12th' (or even easier month end) one has to remember a gradually changing expire date. Dumb. 2) Their music recommendation engine was dreadful. It rarely pointed me to anything else I liked. It is the worst implementation along the lines of "if you liked this you might like..." that I've seen so far.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jun 2009 @ 12:33am

    "the best he could come up with was basically claiming that the price increase had nothing to do with Sony Music at all"

    They lied to us before, why should we believe that they're telling us the truth now?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jun 2009 @ 1:31am

    I wish you stopped using 'indie' like it was a style of music (genre).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Wolfger, 19 Jun 2009 @ 2:32am


    I quit eMusic a long time ago due to some very shady billing practices. I had them suspend my account once, only to have it reactivated (without notice) a couple months later. Had I not paid close attention to my credit card bills, they would have soaked me for a lot of free money. Had to call and demand that they delete my account entirely.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joe Schmoe, 19 Jun 2009 @ 11:40am


    Points still expire on a 30 day cycle.

    Recommendation engine has seen no improvement.

    Bonus packs also seem like they have a shortened shelf life, though I cannot recall how many days they were good for prior to this last price change.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sammie Houston (profile), 19 Jun 2009 @ 2:32pm

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    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    V, 25 Jun 2009 @ 9:01am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tom White, 15 Jul 2009 @ 2:08pm

    eMusic Price increase

    I checked on my refresh date in my profile on eMusic and found that my emusic Premium account had been converted to...eMusic Premium. In June I got 75 downloads for $19.99; the "coversion" meant that in July I would get 50 downloads for $20.79. This represents a jump in price from .265 per download to .416 per download -- a jump of .15 per download. This is not anything like what eMusic calls it, a "modest" increase. At my subscription level, it's in fact a 56% increase.
    Once this was clear to me, I hit cancel and left the service. Unless they come back with something similar to what they were previously charging, I'm done with them. The increase is very simply put: it represents G-R-E-E-D!
    They're just going to lose money in the long run.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dan, 24 Jul 2009 @ 8:12pm

    there is no hope for music

    I still see a lot of huffing and puffing even this late in the changeover. Subscribers are relentless in their outcries. Emusic is going for the gold whether we like it or not. At the rate they were going at, growth was going to be painfully slow or non-existent.

    loyal customers don't want to spend a lot on music per download. but on the long run we shell out a lot of money yearly. Under my current plan i was spending 300 dollars a year. far more than I would spend before I was a member. I believe that analysts are gravely misunderstanding our listening habits. We legally paid for this music because the system worked. It was the closest compromise that i have seen between value and service. Music listeners this savvy can and will find ways to get their music. It just will be through a different medium. This includes used CDs which means less money that the labels will see.

    also being on a major label means nothing in the 21st century. there few benefits, that is unless you are one of the A list bands out there like the Rolling Stones. Otherwise they will let you sink to obscurity and collect heavily on you. often times sinking bands into debt.

    It is my belief that these loyal customers are gravely being under estimated. I will fill up on a couple key albums. Mainly box sets where I will get great value. the entire 60s elvis collection is a steal for example. otherwise not much value left for the service. I'm going back to CDs. at least as long as they still make them. Corporate America needs to learn to respect the consumer.

    I was initially ecstatic about the new catalog. Now I am in disbelief as to how they are dealing with this.

    good bye, good bye old friend.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Hecatombmi, 12 Oct 2009 @ 11:03pm

    Am I missing the point?

    Even with the price increase it seems like a great deal. And I believe in paying for something that brings you so much happiness.

    What is the problem with $.40 a song? I think it's great that the smaller labels are getting a higher amount per download...

    So am I missing the point? Or are the detractors a bunch of freeloaders who think they should get the music without supporting the band?

    Also, for people who say they used to pay $300 a month for CDs. You're not the music fan you think you are. You just think that having a huge collection proves that you're a bigger fan.

    I get 75 downloads a month, and at least one album goes to getting an album I used to have. The way I see it a month is just long enough to fully absorb maybe 4 albums, tops.

    I don't give them a quick listen then off you go from the current playlist. A great album needs to be listened to many times to fully take in all the nuances and understand what the artist was trying to do.

    And while my tastes are mostly metal/rock it doesn't matter what you listen to. If you can't enjoy the 20th time you hear it, it's not that great of an album.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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