Just a bit of interesting yet slightly distressing news today. In a deal that is the first of it’s kind, Emusic has come to an agreement with Sony to include their back catalog that is over 2 years old to be included in emusic’s non DRM a la carte monthly download service.
When I initially heard this news, I was quite pleased. Large record labels have seemed to be quite skeptical in the past about the financial viability of non-DRM download services. But you can’t argue with the numbers. Emusic has over 400,000 subscribers and even at a conservative guestimation are bringing in over 3 million a month. The main complaint that I’ve had with their service ( I was a member for over 2 years) was that after I was finished getting all the cool independent and obscure stuff I wanted, that there were a lot of mainstream things that you couldn’t get on emusic. I’m sure this causes a lot of fluctuation in business, and often people will let their account drop for a few months while new tracks are added.
This is why I was initially excited for them. Having all of Sony’s back catalog over 2 years old means they will be about to have a lot more mainstream stuff such as Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, etc. But upon hearing that part of the deal was that they would raise their prices and offer less downloads in their monthly packages, I started to get angry. How much money does one company need? Why does every download service, especially one that is growing and doing well, have to try and compete with itunes? And, When a company is doing well, what is the pull to sell your soul in order to make more money? If you are struggling, I might be able to understand. But 400,000 subscribers a month?
The bigger, better, faster, more scenario doesn’t seem to work in my mind. I hearken back to days of old when Mom and Pop shops lined the streets of the small town in which I grew up. They served a loyal community of buyers, they made enough money to survive, and they stayed in business. In days of most people in small town America owning a car, and Super Walmart and all that, this model clearly no longer exists…except for pockets in very rural loyalist communities in the US. So the question is, am I up in arms over something that needs to happen? Do emusic NEED to play in the majors in order to stay alive in the future? Or could they continue to exist on 3 million a month and growing?
According to quotes from several articles that I’ve read, they were intending to raise prices anyway and just looking for a good excuse to do it, and that’s fine. But don’t expect hardcore emusic loyalists to understand why you now have much more to offer so are deciding to charge more and offer less. That’s called greed, and it’s something that has fueled the music business since it was a business. It’s also the thing that many of the indie artists that have stood by you from the beginning are trying to fight against. Just a little something to think about.