The day the (e)Music died

This post began as one with much lyrical prose attempting to explain how my methods of musical aquisitions have changed over the years. But that became tiring. And led to this not being posted for a week. Essentially I just want to rant about the recent changes over at eMusic. Changes that have me on the verge of cancelling my account after 5 years of membership.

For those unaware, eMusic is a subscription music service. But unlike streaming services from Napster or Rhapsody, you subscribe to get a certain number of downloads each month. Each download gets you one song. Why would you buy music in this method? Because it was freakin’ cheap. On my current plan I typically pay $2 per album. Of course the follow up question is how could they sell mp3s for so little? And that has 2 answers. First, it was primarily indie, classical, jazz, and international artists that don’t sell nearly as much as the major label acts. Second, well, apparently they couldn’t…

A week ago Sony became the first of the major labels to offer some of their catalog on eMusic. In celebration, eMusic raised their rates. Significantly. Now I have no problem admitting that their business model was probably threatened and that my 17 cent per song account could not last forever, but they managed to butcher the situation worse than just about anybody could imagine.

  • Even though the “announcement” of the changes was made at the end of May, not a single e-mail to subscribers was ever sent. The original letter from the CEO was actually posted to a blog that they refer to as “unofficial”.
  • That post only spoke about the introduction of the Sony catalog – it conveniently ignored that they had already begun to implement a massive overhaul of their pricing structure.
  • Sony… SONY?!?! They went with the most heinous of the 4 major labels? This company holds nothing but contempt for their customers and that’s who they go with? The company that saw nothing wrong with infecting their customers’ computers with malware?
  • Oh, and we won’t even get the latest from Sony. Just the stuff more than 2 years old that MOST OF US ALREADY OWN!
  • They don’t just end the grandfathering of old accounts (something they claimed they would never do) – they come up with a whole new set of them. My friends who were on smaller plans then me would actually be switched (assuming they didn’t cancel) to a better plan than I am allowed to chose.
  • A couple posts on the message board claimed that they were listening, but several important questions were ignored, which leads us to the biggest screwup:
  • Album-only tracks are introduced raising the costs of many albums to 12 based, not just on track length, but on popularity (that’s right – no cherry picking the good stuff from Bad or The Final Countdown). Despite several pleas from their subscribers to clarify the concept of album pricing before July, the eMusic PR person… well… lied. She said it meant a discount and never addressed the fears that some people had about 7 and 8 track albums suddenly costing 12 downloads. Which turned out to be correct.

Most of this is pretty meaningless outside of the eMusic message board, but that won’t stop me from ranting here. Fortunately they’re stuck giving me my old rate until February. But at that point I’ll see the cost of some 3 and 4 track jazz albums skyrocket from 50 cents to $5 (yes they needed a price increase – but not that much). Rather than downloading 8 or 9 albums a month, I’d only get 3 – for about the same price. I’m willing to accept a certain amount of change, but it is doubtful that they can rectify the botch job that was this Sony rollout enough to convince me to say. And that’s a little sad considering how much great music I’ve discovered over there these past few years thanks to the low cost of exploration.

Then again, after the loads of cheap and free music I’ve acquired over the last year in particular maybe it’s time for me to take a break from acquiring and focus on listening…