eMusic: 1998-2014…

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If you’ve never heard of eMusic, then maybe that’s the point.  Here’s an email leaked from inside digital distributor The Orchard to Digital Music News concerning the struggling music ‘e-tailer’…


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Image by Andy Hay, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

20 Responses

  1. Name2

    Back in 2010(?) emusic sold their soul to Universal and Warners for a shot at the big time and sustainability.

    Now they’re gone. Lessons learned?

    Personally, I was a member from 2003 to 2010. RIP.

    • DMN=Hypocrites


      How come you seem to only use free, CC images?

      You DO realize that doing that de-values all other photography and visual arts, right?

      Why do you refuse to pay good, creative artists a fair amount, just because, legally, you can?

      It’s wrong and it has to stop.

      • Paul Resnikoff

        Do you understand how Creative Commons operates? Photographers knowingly agree to allow their snapshots to be used without payment, but with attribution (and whatever other terms they designate). They are saying, ‘yes, you can do this because I specifically allow it.’

        Photography has always had a massive recreational component; now that activity has exploded exponentially thanks to smartphones. Sorry, not everyone is taking a snapshot of a dead chicken and thinking, ‘give me $500!’ They’re just uploading it, and saying you can share it.

        • DMN=Hypocrites

          Paul ResnikoffDo you understand how Creative Commons operates? Photographers knowingly agree to allow their snapshots to be used without payment, but with attribution (and whatever other terms they designate). They are saying, ‘yes, you can do this because I specifically allow it.’”

          Yes, I know how creative commons operates (just as I know how Sects 114 and 115 of the Copyright Law operate, how Soundexchange operates, how ASCAP and BMI operate, etc.,.. etc….)

          Did you notice that I didn’t say you were “stealing” these images? I understand that under the CC license, you have the right to use the images.

          The point I made, is that if you were truly applying your own arguments uniformly, you would realize that in using – even legally – those images, you are contributing to the devaluation of images, in general and negatively influencing the market for those photographers who do not agree to the terms of a CC license, in particular. You are – legally – helping to drive the market price/income of these creative individuals down. A circumstance that you rail against, when it comes to streaming services paying for the use of music.

          Pandora is completely within the law in playing the royalty rates they pay. Further, they are completely within their rights to seek to lower those payments by pursuing direct deals with rights-owners who will agree to take less – and then use THOSE deals to try and further reduce their statutory royalty rate. What is more, Pandora is well within their legal rights (as they stand now) to not pay for their performance of sound recordings recorded before 1972.

          They are also completely within their rights to seek adjudication of ASCAP and BMI performance royalty rates for musical compositions, to keep them in line with other broadcasters of those musical works.

          Spotify is similarly, well within their rights to seek the same type of permissions and favorable payments for their uses of those creative works.

          You rail against these music streaming companies engaging in the exact same type of subrogation of music rights owners as YOU do to photographic rights holders. But because 1) you don’t care about photographers, and 2) under the CC license, and current market conditions, “you can,” do it, you don’t see a problem.

          If you were REALLY a true champion of artists rights, well before you EVER said Pandora should show some “leadership” and pay for performing pre-1972 sound recordings, you would yourself pony up and pay some photographers and graphic artists for thier work.

          But you don’t. You only announce your uniquely-focussed though your personally distorted moral lens – while happily taking advantage where you happen to be ethically blind.

          Somehow, I imagine this larger eithical point may be lost on you, and you will simply repeat: “But, under creative commons, these photogrpahers have given permission for me to use their images without paying….”

  2. Hoodgrown

    I’m surprised the lasted this long. They had a loyal set of subscribers in the early 2000 but couldn’t seem to grow. I was a fan of theirs and AudioLunchBox.


    • Anonymous

      I was a fan until they eliminated the prepaid cards and conveniently eliminated my remaining balance while pretending they had no idea what I was talking about when I contacted them. Screw that.

      • Sizzle Chest

        I was a member of Emusic for a while. A friend of mine, Dave Allen, turned me on to it. I liked the indie-focus thing and I liked the paid subscription thing as it forced me to download new indie music monthly, which I had gotten away from because of spending too much time in the studio. I also liked the catalog of things available there that I didn’t find elsewhere online.

        As for Audiolunchbox, that was a company that started focusing on Indie music, but were bought by some lame MUZAK company in San Diego.

        Another new company just started called iloveindie.com. They’ve been soliciting indie labels and artists and are up and streaming. Wonky interface (no worse than Beats is) and some kind of playlist ability. Not sure they are paying any songwriting, performance or mechanical royalties, they are least paying some kind of immediate ‘stream’ income. Is it legal for a company to start like that and completely ignore legal terms with regard to paying royalties?

  3. Willis

    The reality is that eMusic was wearing a toe tag for a number of years and only now realized that it wasn’t a fashion accessory.

  4. wallow-T

    from a customer perspective, eMusic alienated their loyal indie-hunting customer base with the changes they made to acquire that major label content. It’s likely that the indie-hunting customer base was never large enough. When Amazon began selling all of the obscure and indie MP3 content they could obtain, it pretty much eliminated eMusic’s reason to exist. More recently, Bandcamp has come along to do an outstanding job on MP3 fulfillment for really small-market musicians.

  5. wb8wsf

    I too was a member some years ago, till they screwed around with
    pricing, and then started carrying major label stuff and emusic lost
    it’s magic. Someone associated with the company needs to write a
    book about the internal goings on. Even though it would be a book
    about the music business, it would still be a book about what NOT to
    do. Sad.

  6. Remi Swierczek

    One of the first digital music stores butchered by SONY!

    At 1999 Las Vegas CES Show they have reviewed my Shazam patent pending!
    No action, no reaction, no communications!
    4 month later one of the VPs filed application for same idea hoping for… ?
    As is Shazam is in London out of US patent jurisdiction enjoying multiple practitioner immunity and prostituting MUSIC!
    In the meantime sony have purchased Gracenote, Sony’s Shazam, for $250 million then sold to some traditional news paper folks diversifying to digital for just $170.
    Today Gracenote still serves DEADBEATS stealing the music.

    Last is the “Interview” release continuation of Sony’s polite , very considerate, behavior towards everyone!

    WELL, time to wake up! Sony’s music assets are with at least $30B dollars if we will convert Radio and streaming to $100B music business. Rather easy task, let’s DO IT!

  7. Not Dead Yet - I hope....

    Many companies struggle to pay their bills, what’s weird is The Orchard making it public like that.

    Hope they bounce back, it’s one of the only stores that have real editorial and care about independent
    music. Amazon sucks (plus they’re evil). I wish someone would at least understand that a store
    needs real editorial content or else you’re “ordinary fucking people” and like any other store. There are no “buyers” who approve the music so you at least need something to spirit guide the shoppers. To think I want to listen to what my “friends” listen to is insane. Love my friends but hate their taste in music. Please bounce back eMusic!

  8. Andy O)))

    I’ve been a loyal eMusic subscriber for seven years. It’s obvious they were going to go belly up eventually, but I’m still sad they could be out of the game soon. Not only do they offer hands down the lowest prices on digital downloads, they’re the only site where I can look at new releases organized by subgenre on a daily basis. I recently added over $100 in credits to my account via their amazing double your money sales (it’s obvious now whey they had these sales) but I will be downloading like crazy this weekend to make sure I don’t lose it.

  9. Versus

    The headline is premature, as are the responses. If that letter is the only evidence, there is no justification to claim that emusic is done.

    The emusic site is operational. I’ve been a member since its inception. I was also very disappointed when they went “major” and began including the top-40 trash, thus diluting their original purpose and mission as the place for independent and interesting music. However, recently, they cut out the majors and reaffirmed their commitment to their original mission.

    I hope the site survives. I wish they would also high-resolution (CD-quality or higher) downloads at a premium price option, though. Too often I end up buying the music on emusic, then, after a while, buying the CD just to have the higher-quality files.

    • Audiophiliac

      The high-res thing would be nice, but until distributors start accepting high-res submissions and the ensuing encoding services used by the distributors start dealing with it, then the retailer will never be able to do it. There are only a handful of encoding services used in the U.S. Ever wonder why the user interface looks so similar on these services? It’s not the distributors that decide that, it’s the encoders. Anyone willing to get into the licensing game can start their own streaming service and have digital product delivered to their servers for customer access. That bottle-neck has to be broken. IF an artist is doing high-res recording, there should be a means to directly deliver to a retailer. The bottle-neck issue above is easy for a company that has no server space- all material is hosted by the encoding company- at least that appears to be the case. Any high end industry guys want to chime in and define this a bit better?

      • Versus

        Our distributor for the label we run does require WAV files. They do distribute to stores like Beatport which offer lossless options, of course, but perhaps iTunes (or other stores) are also collecting WAV/FLAC/AIFF lossless in preparation for eventual roll-out of the at least a CD-quality option.

        Meanwhile, Technics is preparing a hi-res download store. HDTracks is already here. Beatport as well. Of course, all of these suffer from limited selection to date.

  10. Alex Leonard

    Thanks for this post. I’m definitely interested to hear the outcome of this. I’ve been a subscriber on eMusic for what must be 10 years at this stage. The idea that they may not be settling their bills (and therefore meaning artists aren’t getting paid) is quite worrying.

    I’ve put my account on hold for 3 months to see whether there’s any further news and developments about this before I make any decisions about whether to keep the subscription or not.

  11. The Big Guy (Not Iovine or Lefsetz)

    Beats music will be the next to go under. They are experiencing really poor royalty pay-out. Paying 4 months behind schedule and paying pennies on the dollar for what is owed.

    Ironic because the Beats Headphones are so over-priced, you’d think they could dump that profit into royalty payments that are due from their on-demand streaming service- unless they aren’t selling that many headphones. They have distribution, but who buys $200 headphones at Target or Wal-Mart? That’s an oxymoron.