eMusic Abandons the Subscription Paywall…

It’s hard to say what exactly went wrong at eMusic.  One thought is that the eMusic model was born in a 90s world of walled gardens and scarcity, and simply never evolved.  Another theory is that eMusic alienated its smaller, niche following by ingesting mainstream content and trying to please a lower common denominator.

Whatever the explanation, this is a company now engaged in survivalism.  As of this morning, eMusic is now dropping its longtime subscription requirement, and letting anyone browse, interact, and buy content on emusic.com a-la-carte.  It’s hard to say if any of this prevents… this:

What’s clear is that that forced bundle just isn’t working for eMusic.  But we knew that: eMusic has been around for 14 years, but its subscriber base has been eroding for years.  The company started to plateau at roughly 400,000 subscribers several years ago, though estimates now peg current subscriber tallies at about half that.

“We hope the new business model will encourage an even broader audience to become buyers of music and, ultimately, music collectors,” eMusic CEO Adam Klein said.

For those sticking around, the new eMusic will look something like this:

(1) Subscription still available, but not required.

(2) Anyone can browse and buy, for a-la-carte download pricing.  One-off tracks are typically 99-cents, but can dip to 49-cents.

(3) No subscription streaming option.

(4) Subscribers will still ‘buy in bulk,’ with the following plans (and some bonus downloads sprinkled in):

$11.99/month for 24 downloads

$15.99/month for 34 downloads

$20.99/month for 46 downloads

$31.99/month for 73 downloads


21 Responses

  1. Casey

    Too bad they already allowed you to buy music like this before using giftcards. And then they proceeded to update the website, doing away with that option and all the money and saved artists my account had with it. Some of those saved artists I fully planned on buying music from and I have never been able to find them again. Support said there was no record of my saved artists and they wouldn’t answer about the money. Emusic can go die.

    • Casey

      And I just logged in. You may not technically need a subscription anymore, but I can’t even change my password or email settings without subscribing. Unreal.

    • Voice of Reason

      I worked for Pakman for 2 years…he was a very good manager of business AND people

  2. Guest

    There are only two music services that matter anymore. iTunes (dying) and Spotify . The rest are niche or irrelevant.

    • Jordan Owens

      This is unfortunate about eMusic, but something I feel everyone saw coming given the current market.

      However, what I want to know is how you can say iTunes is dying? That intrigued me to say the least.

      Jordan Owens
      President / Head Operator
      Sour Mash Recording Industries


      • Guest

        I think it should be clear to any forward thinking industry person (with children or teenagers)that the concept of downloading computer files/songs is going the way of the CD and Vinyl.
        It simply is not the practical approach to listening to music and the storage of it all becomes dreary for a generation of instant gratificationists.
        I remember telling some EMI guys the same thing about the CD in 2000. They did not believe me either. This fact (the coming death of locally stored files) is one of the many reasons not to bother to much about piracy and instead focus on forcing the streaming service that is currently setting standards to be transparent in all aspects of its business.
        They are currently losing money, so it can not really be said that they are “screwing artists” (unless they bail to the greater fool) but some form of later compensation for this buildup period would be in clear order for any content provider currently propping them up.

        • dsbd.net

          Here is a real world story to support the notion of itunes falling off…

          Christmas 2012 – both of my early 20’s children who are heavy listeners of music gave me all of the itunes cards they had collected as gifts during the holidays saying they had no use for them. spotify satisfies their music consumption as both kids are subscribers to the service.

          • J. Spradgett

            “your kids” are 1/3 billionth of the world population not a representatived data set

          • dsbd.net

            in the course of a typical week i have no less than fifteen or more early-20’s visiting my kids. i will conduct a little sample poll of how many of these suburban (nyc) kids purchase from itunes. my portly gut has me guessing none.

            -first kid (male 21) just walked in – no itunes – sirius radio, pandora.

          • Guest

            Think megatrends. small samples are useful, but not needed to follow this line of thought. think faster networks, smarter mobile devices, increased and less loyal consuption of media of all kinds.
            The conclusion is inescapable. Media is moving towards on demand.

        • Central Scrutinizer

          You are correct and Apple knows it also.
          That is why they keep pushing match and cloud service.

  3. Stine

    Anyone who thinks vinyl is dead clearly doesn’t follow the music industry. It’s had a steady increase over the past 6 years and last year was hugely successful, not to mention profitable.
    Cassette singles even saw a 300% sales increase in the UK in 2012, how crazy is that?
    As for iTunes, I don’t know that it’s dying. It’ll reinvent itself and make consumers dependent on it in a new way; that’s what Apple does.

    • Guest

      It is fun that vinyl is making a comeback, and maybe this will amount to something in certain circles. However vinyl is and will remain a very tiny niche.
      As for Apple reinventing themselves… Their only way to go would be starting a Spotify competitor and that may well work for them. That does not change the fact that file downloading is moving towards the end of its lifecycle.
      Our eyes should be on the streaming service business model and who is getting paid what.

    • simon

      they still do cassette singles? i haven’t seen one of those for years. i still use emusic but it’s a dog of a website, riddled with bugs.

  4. Jos Cuzz

    Even though I provide Emusic with music content from my distribution label, I am glad to hear the heady days of priveliged access to music through subscription is over. If they make the right kinda noise about this policy switch it could prove to be a winner. Good luck to them and for making the change.

  5. Econ

    Emusic’s biggest mistake is STILL the monthly sub. What idiot thinks that is a good idea? I would have bought 3- or 6-month subs but having to ty to come up with 24 songs every month is either impossible or requires keeping a list handy at all times. Even music junkies have to take a break and actually LISTEN to their purchases which takes some time.

    And of course even $5 for an album is overpriced compared to Amazon’s deals which require no subscription and therefore no additional management time on the part of the customer. Spending ANY time managing a subscription is simply a dealbreaker especially on a monthly basis.

    They might have been better off with a Costco style membership – say $10 a year gets you half off on any download (with a possible limit of say 100 tracks a year).
    I’ll say it again (and paul has written related articles) – itunes play counts really helps a user figure out if they’re spending their money wisely. If you’ve listened to a song you bought a whopping 4 times over the last 2 years, you were better off streaming it on Spotify or Rhapsody. (Basically the same thing my parents used to harp on me back in the day. Only now there’s actual data to back it up.)

    • Guest

      Hi, I’m an “idiot” who has thought since 2010 that my emusic membership is a great idea. Yes, I realize people like me don’t count, but I do not want to be connected at all times to the cloud to listen to music — go suck it, Spotify — nor do I want to change CD’s constantly. Locally stored MP3’s it is then. And what kind of idiot wants to pay .99 a track instead of .49? Or even 7.99 for an album at Amazon when you can get it for 4.90 instead? And my Saved For Later list has 100+ albums, so using the credit is child’s play–and gee, yeah, I even manage to find time to listen to them.

      Emusic’s website, however, breaks constantly, which is something I can’t defend and makes me worry more than anything else that they’ll die. If a loyal customer can barely tolerate the interface, a first time visitor’s gonna run away and never look back. I really hope they can compete somehow, as this “idiot” would be sad to start paying more for the same product like all you smarty-pants do.

  6. Coco

    Take a look at the three old men they picked to “run” this company. The three of them were named in a blatant sexual harassment suit against an intern, and, ahem, they settled it big time “silently” out of court – but it is public record – so they were (by their own display of behavior) not worried about the money they were milking from their subscribers as much as they were interested in their own “pleasure” shall we call it? Lesson #1: Do not hire a CEO who was convicted of Fraud against a company he supposedly worked “for” in his own country. Does no one ever do background checks on CEO candidates? oh, I forgot, he went to an Ivy league school and is of a certain well, we know what……….let’s see how many times now has he been fired and ruined companies because he is just ?, well……..you figure it out………….