Earlier this month, eMusic, the veteran US digital music service, announced the launch of its new Connoisseur program, offering a trio of plans for “even the most gluttonous music lover”. The three plans are the Basic Connoisseur Plan, which offers 100 downloads a month for $24.99; the Plus Connoisseur Plan, which delivers 200 downloads a month for $49.99; and the Premium Connoisseur Plan, which includes 300 downloads a month for $74.99. Each plan works out to just 25 cents per download if the subscriber maximizes the number of downloads available per month.
The high-volume tiers add to existing Basic, Plus, and Premium plans, which currently allow consumers to bolster their total buying levels with one-off “Booster Packs”. But according to eMusic chief David Pakman, existing portions are simply unsatisfying to bigger buyers. “Our customers have told us that the 90 downloads a month in our highest plan are just not enough,” said Pakman. “They’re passionate about discovering music.”
The passionate consumer base has helped eMusic grab a distant number two ranking behind the iTunes Store, though critics like Universal eLabs president Larry Kenswil have pointed to a heavily-discounted product. Others, most notably Nettwerk Music Group head Terry McBride, feel that a quarter-a-track could represent a pricing sweet spot.
Since it was founded in 1998, eMusic has been a pioneer in the digital music space, and has built up an impressive catalogue of over two million tracks, all of which are offered in the MP3 format. The company has also been a haven for indie labels, with many of them offering their music exclusively on the site. The Connoisseur program is a bold move to attract more high-volume customers, while also trying to find the right pricing model.
The idea that a quarter per track is a pricing sweet spot is intriguing because it’s at odds with the pricing structure of other major digital music stores. Apple’s iTunes has been the dominant player in the digital music space for over a decade, and it continues to charge $0.99 per track. Spotify, the world’s largest paid music-streaming service, offers a subscription-based model that allows users to stream unlimited music for a monthly fee.
However, eMusic’s Connoisseur program is based on the idea that some customers still want to own and download music, and are willing to pay for it. As Pakman explains, “We want to offer a service that meets the needs of these passionate music lovers and collectors without asking them to pay an arm and a leg for it.”
It’s worth noting that eMusic’s Connoisseur program is not the first time that the company has experimented with different pricing models. In 2015, eMusic launched an audiobook and spoken-word service, which allowed customers to download up to two audiobooks per month for $11.99. But the service was discontinued a year later, with the company citing a lack of demand. Whether the Connoisseur program will have more success remains to be seen.
One thing that is clear, however, is that eMusic’s Connoisseur program represents a bold move to attract more high-volume customers to the site, and to find a pricing model that works for both customers and the company. With over 100 million downloads sold to date, eMusic is clearly doing something right. Whether the Connoisseur program will help the company continue to grow and innovate remains to be seen, but it’s certainly an interesting development to keep an eye on.