eMusic returns! Or something of that name.


I was a keen customer of eMusic in the mid-2000s. You bought a subscription with a certain number of tracks per month, you bought those tracks, you got plain un-DRMed MP3s. The closest you’d get to what Bandcamp is these days! I got a lot of good stuff there.

The main problem was that they had no majors at all, just whatever indie labels they could do a deal with. Also no self-released indies. If you found a major artist it’d be a crappy post-stardom live album. And more than a few bands trying to leverage the artist’s shit effect.

I eventually gave up, put off by the bad selection and the weird games with what you could buy — a subscription would get you a certain number of downloads a month, which you had to use or lose, and the download process was unreliable and made of annoyance. After I left, the majors buggered the pricing and the bigger indies gave up too. I spoke to someone who worked there around 2007 who confessed their business plan was “how do we charge our users more and offer them less?” which doesn’t sound to me like a winning outlook. He left very soon after.

Having gone through various misfortunes (but then, it’s been corporate pass-the-parcel since 1999), eMusic have returned. It’s not clear the present eMusic has anything much to do with the old eMusic — the ancient artist URLs appear to still work, so that’s nice — but it’s a brand I still remember with fondness. Hopefully they can suck less now. And offer FLAC.

Not that I’ll be giving them money at this stage, I’m afraid — Bandcamp is just a stupendously superior indie record store in every regard, and Spotify if I need my dose of majors. But, eMusic, I’m a middle-aged seriously obsessive music nerd with a healthy income, I’m open to your pitch. “42 tracks for £17.99 per month, 28 for £12.99 a month and 14 for £6.99 a month” — 1998 prices in 2017 is a considerable ask, and I think I’d like to know how much everyone is being paid. But y’know, email me.

10 thoughts on “eMusic returns! Or something of that name.

  1. What made me give up on eMusic was that I suffered a hard drive crash, lost some music (thankfully I didn’t lose most of it) and went to redownload it, as they’d always advertised you could (and as you’d been able to less than a month previously) and found they had instigated *that day* a new rule saying you had to repurchase to redownload — and were claiming that it had always been so and they’d never said otherwise.
    That was the same month they started getting major labels on there.
    It’s a shame, because I genuinely loved their site — and I actually liked the subscription thing, because if you were left with two or three tracks of your subscription, it basically forced you to take a chance on something (usually in my case some experimental jazz album or something, to maximise the amount of music I got for my two tracks).

  2. I never left Emusic, and to be honest apart from losing the unlimited redownloads – which they’ve now basically brought back – it never changed a great deal. More people are on Bandcamp, but if you can get it on Emusic it’s usually cheaper. “42 tracks for £17.99 per month”? Mostly for the stuff I look at on Bandcamp it’s about $10 a 10ish-track album, which is fine value and I’m not complaining about it but it’s about twice as much as Emusic. Or £3 for 4 tracks, which is half as much again as. Or name-your-price or free, which is obviously nice and I shouldn’t complain anyway because it’s nearly all going to the people who make it, but it does undercut your argument a bit that you’re out by a factor of about 2. And yes, I would also like to know how much people get paid – I keep meaning to ask the ex-members of the Screaming Banshee Wotnot if they ever worked it out.

  3. Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s good. You’d get better audio quality than eMusic on PiratePay. I ended my subscription to eMusic after a month because the mp3’s were of low bitrate thus low quality and didn’t sound great, and I wanted options to purchase tracks individually because of the limited selection per month meant I couldn’t always buy whole albums. I prefer BandCamp and other services (such as Juno Download) because at least its DRM-free and have FLAC and WAV options, plus you can re-download without paying for them again.

  4. The recent stuff I’ve got has been 320 kbit, which I can mostly live with, and you’ve always been able to buy tracks individually. Emusic has always been DRM-free and the whole cloud-storage bit means that you can again download tracks repeatedly, or stream them.

    If it doesn’t suit you, that’s fine, and there are some things I definitely want FLACs of, so I have a lot of sympathy with you there, but the specific criticisms being made aren’t really accurate.

  5. I think full record price when the artist’s getting 85% is a completely different beast to full record price on a more typical record company deal, I should have stated that explicitly.

  6. It is, but ten tracks on Emusic is usually £4.20, not £10, which also makes a difference when expense is one of the criticisms.

  7. Alright. I preferred having a script that downloaded the tracks to location rather than getting a zip of them to have to delete after, but apart from that it seems to work pretty well. Oh, and it’s lost the mouseover that tells you how many tracks an album has and therefore how much of your credit it’ll use. I’ll have to stick wanting that back in as feedback.

    The main thing I noticed a decade ago was them not having major label stuff, and that still jumps out now.

  8. I’ve been an emusic subscriber since about 2006/ 2007 when a friend got me a subscription as a gift. Like others, the lack of major labels doesn’t really bother me as my tastes lean towards the indie end of things anyway. The quality issue I can’t comment on: I reckon my hearing’s shot anyway from an 80s childhood/ teenhood spent listening to nth generation cassette copies of things way too loud on a series of cheap Walkman knockoffs.

    The worst issue by far is the “use it or lose it” model. You should be able to carry over unused credit, even only for a month or two if you’re after a box set. My usage pattern seems to be to download a few tracks I’m genuinely interested in at the start of the month and then a frenzied session of downloading any old thing at the end of the month just to use it up. In fairness, I have found a few gems that way but it’s annoying…

  9. Thanks to listening to far too much /I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue/, when I see the word “emusic”, I hear Barry Cryer saying “The Sound of Emu Sick” and then a groaning audience.

    From the article and comments, it does seem like the site still resembles something that has emerged from a bird.

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