emusic canada changes its pricing

What with the sad loss of Wild East Compact Sounds this summer, my sources of music are now limited. eMusic, bless ’em, have been my source of indie stuff since about 2003. They were cheap, had a fixed price per download, and carried a raft of indie stuff and no major label tat.

Not much longer; got this in my inbox:

So, yeah, the full announcement: major label content, minimum 49¢/track, and variable pricing. Exactly all the reasons I wouldn’t want to use them. Good call, eMusic, for a battered-about subscriber since 2003.

I was initially confused by the pricing. I pay 36¢/track, so I couldn’t see how their promise that “your monthly payments will not change and you will still be able to download the same number of tracks available today, if not more, depending upon your current plan“. Then I see their new menu:

So basically they’re crediting me with a fake $4.48 a month (oh wait; “30 days”, not a month; they so want you to forget to download stuff by making the cycle date change) so I can still get my 35 downloads. Since they hint that there will now be variable pricing, I’ll bet the new stuff will be >49¢, so I really won’t be able to download as many per month after all.

They’re saying that the new pricing will allow them to do a bunch of fun stuff:

We’re also committed to making eMusic a better member experience. We recently rolled out improvements to Browse and Search pages. And we’re hard at work on a host of new features and enhancements including a music locker, which should allow you to stream your music collection from any desktop or mobile device. In addition, improvements to eMusic’s social features, to better connect you with our editors, other members, artists, labels and your friends, are also in the works. We’ve sketched out an ambitious slate, and it will take a little while to get there. We hope you’ll continue on the journey with us.

I don’t want all that social fluff. The MP3s work just fine on any mobile device, so streaming them just adds more crud. I want fixed price downloads, not some half-assed music locker. Where, oh where is Frank Hecker and swindleeeee when you need them?


  1. I agree with you- they have made so many changes to their pricing model and it always gets more expensive with more useless functionality.

    Adding the mega record conglomerates has cost emusic their soul.

  2. Where am I? I got burned out on eMusic blogging. I haven’t had a chance to look deeply into the new eMusic pricing, so really don’t have that many thoughts on it. (Though I’ll have to pay some attention to it soon in order to decide about what sort of plan I want going forward.) I do have a couple of general comments, though:

    First, I think that eMusic is really not the place anymore for truly price-sensitive customers, and probably hasn’t been for a while. eMusic’s value proposition going forward will be for those folks who buy enough music to make it worthwhile to get some sort of bulk discount, but don’t have enough time to seek out true bargains and find eMusic more convenient. It’s hard to say how big that market is.

    Second, I think that eMusic is basically suffering collateral damage in the war that major labels and top-tier indie labels are fighting to maintain some sort of pricing power for downloaded music. The entrenched interests in the music industry (songwriters, publishers, labels, artists, etc.) can’t get their collective act together to move together into new business models, so they’re trying to preserve the existing models as much as possible. We see this also in the rumors about labels turning to Apple to provide a paid streaming service so they don’t have to deal with a free ad-supported streaming service like Spotify.

    The bottom line is that any business built on selling music (via downloads or streaming) is going to have a very tough time going forward. Apple just uses music to sell hardware, and Amazon can afford to treat music as a loss leader, but eMusic has to survive on people paying for music, and whether they (or anyone else) can be successful doing that is an open question.

  3. Thanks for the insightful comment, Frank.

    I’d suggest that there aren’t cheaper music services in Canada than eMusic. Amazon doesn’t sell music here, and Spotify doesn’t work. There are some great online labels in Canada — Zunior, for one — but few other services.

  4. Sorry, I was writing from a US perspective. You’re correct that outside the US the options for purchasing digital music are limited in many countries.

  5. I’ve been an eMusic customer since 2006. The new pricing structure is fine by me as they increased the amount of my plan to allow me to still get the 75 downloads I had previous to the change.

    The biggest problem now is that the service is almost worthless as the one label that I purchased the majority of music from is no longer on eMusic (Merge). Also, although they promised more new music with this pricing change (initially 250,000 tracks) I am unable to download them because I’m in Canada. Even the majority of albums that they advertise on the “New on eMusic” page are unavailable to me.

    I think this is my last month with them, but I have no idea where I’m going to get good music at a reasonable (non-iTunes) price.

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