eMusic will be expanding their music catalogue again, and changing their pricing structure again, as well. The online music retailer struck a deal with Sony last summer and added Warner to their roster this past January. And last week they announced they would be adding "more than 250,000" tracks to their database, thanks to a new deal with Universal Music Group - which includes, among many, many others, Def Jam (classic hip-hop), Verve (classic jazz), and Deutsche Grammophon (classic classical). Fascinatingly, eMusic CEO Adam Klein refers to this new influx of music as a "slug."
All of this is exciting, but I was a little saddened to see that once again eMusic will be changing their pricing model. I get it, they need to stay competitive, what with 99-cent tunes available on iTunes, and daily MP3 deals on Amazon, etc. But how many times are they going to change their model in a 1-year time span? This isn't just a change in how albums are priced, it's actually a fundamental change in the underlying currency - instead of paying for a subscription then getting credits to spend on downloads, you'll soon pay for a subscription then use that actual money to buy downloads. Here's how they explain it in their update to subscribers:
In order to continue to grow our catalog and to insure a sustainable business in the long term, we need more flexible pricing. So we are changing from today’s credit-per-track system to currency pricing. Your membership will continue just as it is today and your monthly payments will not change. But starting in November, you’ll see tracks and albums priced in dollars and cents instead of credits.I see good news and bad news here. The good news is that the major labels are finally starting to understand that DRM is, on the whole, a bad (and very anti-customer) idea. They're getting on board with the idea that an MP3 is something you can buy and sell, and that you don't need to attach handcuffs to each one. Of course they're realizing this at a time when buying and selling MP3s is starting to sound as out-dated as buying a physical CD - everyone knows streaming is where it's at, right? But still, this is a good thing. And the fact that eMusic's prices (according to eMusic) will represent a "savings of 20%-50% compared to iTunes a la carte prices" is also a good thing. So what's the bad news? The bad news is that by switching to a real monetary price per track/album, eMusic has pulled the curtain back to reveal something which was always true about them, but easier to overlook before: you are basically giving them an interest-free loan every time you pay your membership dues. When you subscribe, you are, in essence, buying yourself an eMusic gift card that expires at the end of the year. Again, this has always been true, but somehow putting real dollar amounts on their wares makes it chafe a bit more.
What do you think? Are you any more or less likely to become (or remain) an eMusic member based on the new changes to their catalogue and pricing? What alternatives do you use? iTunes? Amazon? Why? Let me know in the comments.