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EMusic Switching Business Models

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As of November 8, 2003, EMusic will be discontinuing the unlimited service offering and replacing it with a new service offering that places a reasonable limit on the number of downloads available to each subscriber in a month.

So begins the official eMusic.com Q & A page. Put another way, those unlimited downloads for $10/month you’ve been enjoying? Better drain the hard disk while you still can, because you’ll be paying more later. Thank you, Dimensional Associates LLC.

The new terms involve signing up for either a $9.99/mo Basic membership which includes up to 40 downloads, or a $14.99/mo Plus membership, which includes up to 65 downloads, or (if you’re already a member) a $50/mo Premium membership, which includes up to 300 downloads. Assuming you download the maximum number of allowed tracks each month, the prices per track are $.25, $.23 and $.17. Good per-track prices, but obviously the price goes up any month you don’t download the maximum number. And you pay every month whether you download any or not.

Comments on Slashdot indicate that the previous unpublished limit was actually 2000 songs per month. The suggested plan to sign up for the Premium plan twice a year for one month each wouldn’t work, because you can only sign up for that plan if you were already a member yesterday.

Me, I’m just going to cancel.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine…

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About pwinn

  • I’ve been thinking about this since I got the email this morning. I’ve been a customer of emusic since they started (as a per track or per album service) and a charter member of the subscription service (with a TMBG fleece pullover). But I’m seriously thinking of cancelling my account.

    Over the past year the customer experience at emusic has deteriorated. Their download manager is buggy, they don’t even list email addresses anymore, and the recommendations section has never worked.

    They are becoming like the rest of music industry. Well, emusic, I can get treated like crap by the music buisiness almost anywhere, why should I pay you?

    Y’know, maybe if you treated your customers with respect and offered them services which offered value you might not be in this predicament.

    If I wanted to be treated badly by ignorant jerks, I’d just go to a record store.

  • BJ

    Emusic has been my main source of new tunes for about a year. And, yeah, I’ve been bummed out all day since I read that email. I’m not surprised that, given the lack of cooperation from the labels, they’ve had a tough time. Like Jim says, they clearly haven’t been spending time or money making the customer experience better, and they haven’t had much in the way of new artists lately. If this means their business model just won’t work, then it’s a sad day indeed.

    But I plan to give the new service a shot and see how it goes. We get what, 40 downloads per month now? Especially if the selection expands, it still might be worth having.

    I’m also going to do some serious downloading between now and the end of the month. (Grin.)

  • As for the expansion of services, the last time emusic made a significant expansion was with out of print titles from Universal, the titles were only available to IP’s in the USA.

    Which meant I was paying US$ and not able to download titles (in some cases I owned on CD, so I can buy the discs, but I can’t download the music?).

    I’m getting the feeling that customers outside the US are going to get really screwed.

    As an example, I tried to download the best of Teenage Fanclub, about a third of the tracks are defective, this is a 21 track album, so I can blow my whole month allowance with one album, and mostly tracks I already own on CD.

    I’m calling “shenanigans”.

  • I’ve been a member of eMusic for just over a year and I’d already cancelled due to the lack of new titles. I’m happier subscribing to JazzRadio.net — German D.J.’s but mostly mainstream jazz with 128k speed. When I tired of Jazz, I switch over to Shoutcast.com

    If I had unlimited space on my computer, perhaps I’d be more into downloading but I’m happy with 128k-stream radio.

    I’m enjoying Magnatune streams and will one day buy albums from them.

  • From a posting on the Pho email list:

    The E-music message boards are currently disabled, so this survey isn’t as
    broad as it could be, but email discussions over the last hour and half
    suggest to me that something like 80% of E-music’s current subscribers are
    planning to cancel their subscriptions next month.
    (FWIW, I’m not one of
    them, but that’s more out of loyalty than because I think the new plans
    continue to serve my own needs/usage habits.)

    If anyone on pho is reading this who could make a difference, here are
    what seem to be the top issues:

    * Lack of a tier between $50/300 tracks and $15/65 tracks.

    * Lack of ability to download above the monthly ceiling, even at
    additional cost.

    * Concern that E-music will not be able to continue to add new material
    to maintain value at higher price points.

    * Concern that pre-payment model is unduly reliant on people paying for,
    and not using, downloads vs. creating viable payment structure on a
    per-track basis.

    * Per-track, vs. per-album limits penalize fans of some genres — e.g.,
    hardcore punk records frequently have 20-30 or even more short tracks.
    Wouldn’t the standard 10 compositions/phonorecord royalty limits provide a
    reasonable out on this score? Perhaps tracks on an album with twenty or
    more tracks could count as 0.5 of a downlaod.

    * Several have lamented that the biggest value of E-music has been the
    freedom to sample a genre or artist of potential but uncertain interest
    with no risk. Many have reported that they use E-music primarily as a
    tool to decide whether or not to purchase a CD.

    Emphasis added. 80%? Ouch!

  • I’ve been thinking about this all day, and will probably cancel my subscription tomorrow. I’ve found fewer new titles I want, the discovery of new interesting artists is dropping (I’ve really only found one album a week over the past six months) and the online services are non-existant (their recommendations page is pathetic). And their download manager software is horrid.

    Given that price strtucture, I would be better off going to Soundscapes down the street every Saturday and talking to the clerks about chunes, and buying a CD which would turn out to be about the cost of their “premium” “service” (is that like servicing a mare?).

  • Eric Olsen

    This is sad because based upon what Jim and many others have said here over the last year, eMusic was the one digital music service they liked.

    Magnatune will be happy to hear that Aaron!