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Turn And Face The Change

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Many of you Blogcritics and perhaps a few regular readers know me as The Guy Who Got Mugged. And Beaten. Some of you may refer to me as The Guy Who Deserved To Get Mugged. And Should Have Been Killed But We’ll Settle For Beaten. But I digress. I’m also the guy with a 12-month subscription plan who got mugged. (For those living under rocks or in civilized parts of the world, Emusic is an MP3 online music store specializing mostly in artists on indie labels.) As unrelated as these facts seem, they do intersect. After having all my credit cards stolen, I promptly — good debtor that I am – canceled them. EMusic attempted to register a charge for my monthly subscription fee. My bank choked: what with having to deal with all the bizarre, post-robbery 75-cent charges at 7-11, Safeway and other pedestrian sorts of establishments open at three in the morning, who can blame them?

EMusic sent a notice that their automated credit card transaction had failed, could I please contact them and update my credit card information? I notified them that I was presently in plastic-cash limbo and would update my account as soon as new cards were issued, allowing them to bill me for this month as well as the remainder of my subscription, every month individually as my contract stipulates — for about six more months.

Everybody step back: They sent me a polite cancellation notice, waiving all pending and future fees associated with my contract. When does this happen? A company holds a valid contract with a paying customer; there is no issue of customer dissatisfaction; and the company releases the customer from the contract with a Fare thee well, along ye merry way.

My money says EMusic is trying like hell to dump existing old-model subscribers so they can update their business model to compete with the sudden glut of online music distribution outlets. Compare it to the declared Democrat presidential candidates: Apple is like Howard Dean or John Kerry on a good day; nobody wants to be… damn, can’t remember his name… you know, that slouchy guy with gray hair, bad tie… oh didn’t he drop out anyway?

All this speculation is well and good, until you read the fine print. I’ll sum it up for you: As of 8th November 2003, you no longer get your all-you-can-eat subscription plan even if that’s what you signed for and are contractually committed to; your account will automatically convert to a new service with a maximum download limit; or those with existing accounts may convert to a special plan, as in especially expensive: for $50 a month your limit is extended to 300 downloads.

I’m on thin ice, as due to my credit card rejection, I may be failing to fulfill my contractual agreement, giving EMusic the right to terminate my contract. But what about other subscribers? The ones who were expecting a full year of unlimited downloads and now face restrictive limits or appreciable fee increases for higher yet still restrictive limits. The ones who weren’t mugged, smacked about like rag dolls, likely bearing permanent scars on prominent features, all for a free tin of Skoal and a Pepsi… But again I digress.

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About Martin Blank

  • Eric Olsen

    They’re just blowing out everyone they can and starting over with a new model that will send them down the tiolet. Very sad as they were the one service people generally had favorable things to say about in the pre-iTMS days.

    Thanks and glad you’re on the road back.

  • TDavid

    Sorry to hear about the mugging, Sanford.

    The problem with eMusic is the selection, from my point of view, it isn’t the subscription model which was pretty good, but now with their new subscription policy could very likely become their coup de grace.

    Unless one’s favorite artists were using independent labels they probably didn’t have any songs on there. I still didn’t have trouble downloading my 100 free songs (a special deal when we bought one of our machines).

    eMusic was good in a sort of way in that one could explore new and unknown artists.

  • san

    Problem was: Indie artists are my favorite artists. Now I’m stuck between ordering CDs (can’t find them locally), sub-par encodings (also a problem at EMusic), or, well, nothing — because iTMS and the other whoppers don’t have them. Thus quoth BBR: Life is unfair; kill yourself or get over it,

  • Temple A. Stark

    Its this type of thing which is going to keep people from paying for music. Changing contracts in the middle is both good and lousy business practice. Good for the bottom line, in the short term, but bad because anyone with an ounce of self-esteem is going to give them the finger and download for free. The indie crowd may be a different animal because users now they are not rich and may in fact be doing it for … the music (imagine that).

    eBay does the same thing – except you don’t lose any money when they change. It’s still annoying.

    Go here to post dissatisfaction. All you need is an e-mail address and a reason.

  • Temple A. Stark

    Damn, update – only works if yu are already a subscriber. But Sanford – that means you. Get on it :)

  • Temple A. Stark

    Sorry, Sanford e-mailed me and my last comment was unclear unless you read the one above. It was me saying that the emusic site allows feedback and subscribers should take advantage.

  • Jim Carruthers

    I’ve been an emusic client since they started with per track pricing (first album, Frank Black and the Catholics), and a charter subscriber with the They Might Be Giants club.

    Or I should say, I was a client.

    It wasn’t really the price (though their new price structure is stupid), it is that they are giving me less for more. The service has been declining, the software doesn’t really work, and the experience is deteriorating.

    All I want is an experience which I enjoy using, and if a flat fee doesn’t work, then charge me per track, and provide me with an incentive to download even more.

    Don’t treat me badly and tell me to piss off if I don’t like it. If I wanted rude, ignorant treatment, I’d just go to a record store.

    So I cancelled my subscription, and it went through right away with nary a peep from emusic. Funny way to do business, get rid of your best customers who have been with you since the beginning.

    I should remark that until the past year, the customer service at emusic was outstanding (for example, they gave me a free month because the Universal catalogue is not available outside the USA). However, I think they are just trying to find a tidy way to go out of business and avoid lawsuits from customers with contracts.

  • Mark Curtis

    I have been a subscriber for about 18 months. Since getting the notice of changes to the service, I decided to just d/l everything I was interested in before but didn’t download because I never imagined they would unilaterally make this kind of change.

    Within a couple days of starting to d/l as much as possible (all using their D/L manager, of course, which requires a lot of hand holding as it gets hung up a lot, and most likely 10,000 other people like me decided to start d/ling) I got a first notice that I had “unusual” activity. It did not say how many tracks I had d/led to date, or anything concrete to go by. I debated with myself: slow down to avoid getting cut off or not? I decided to go for it, and today, after d/ling perhap 3000 tracks, I got the cut off notice.

    It is really sad to see this happen. The whole time I was a subscriber, I would d/l per month anywhere from zero tracks to 200 tracks. The thought never crossed my mind to d/l thousands of tracks in a short period of time, but after Nov. 8, I am sure there will pretty much be no more e-music, and no place to legally sample independent artists. It is really sad.

  • TDavid

    RE: and no place to legally sample independent artists. It is really sad.

    Haven’t been there for awhile, but doesn’t still have independent artists up for download?

    I realize that there is/was a lot of homemade crap to wade through there, but at one time I found some gems in the slushpile there.

  • Mark Saleski

    what about i know that the samples are streamed…but they are complete tunes, not just 30 second cuts.