Define ‘Catalog’: Warner Music Picking the Songs for eMusic

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Want a major label content deal, and the big-name catalog that comes with it?

Then prepare to make some concessions.  In the recent deal between Warner Music Group and eMusic, it turns out that Warner labels are picking which artists and songs will appear on the site, instead of the other way around.

That spells a combination of catalog classics and newer, pop-driven artists.  “Yes, the labels are making the inclusion decisions,” eMusic representative Cathy Halgas Nevins told Digital Music News, while also noting that the company has been “doing it that way since we added Sony [Music Entertainment].”  Once the content is ingested, eMusic then chooses which material to feature and curate.

That type of content arrangement is hardly a concern with independent label partners, especially if users stumble upon obscure, back-catalog gems.  But after the Sony announcement last year, longtime eMusic users were probably a bit surprised to find content from Britney Spears, Will Smith, Michael Bolton, and Kenny G.

Others were less-than-thrilled to discover a sudden shift in pricing, one less favorable to users and suspiciously timed alongside the Sony deal announcement.

What next?  The big-label arrangements mark a shift from the indie attitude that eMusic built its reputation upon.  But eMusic is pushing beyond its niche boundaries, courting bigger deals, and, for that matter, considering its exit options.  Now, the question is whether eMusic can hold onto its core audience in the process, or suffer from mainstream dilution.