Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The eMusic PR backlash

eMusic, one of the most popular and reasonably priced legit music download sites (and DRM-free) has found itself in a PR quagmire. I should know -- I am one of their customers.

The beauty of eMusic is that for a cheap subscription, you can download a healthy amount of songs strictly from indie labels, which made them hip to finding new music in all kinds of categories from electronica to rock. Plus you didn't have to worry about messing with computer permissions, etc. like iTunes, which music fans abhor.

In one fell swoop double announcement this week, eMusic has created a whirlwind of ill will. They boasted that they signed their first major label deal with Sony, providing them with over 200,000 tracks from artists, all of them at least two years old. At the same, they jacked up their prices dramatically when these songs are entering their database in early July.

In my case, I will be going from 90 downloads a month for $19.99 to 50 downloads a month for the same price. Personally, the thought of downloading old Journey and Celine Dion songs doesn't float my boat, so all I'm really left with are all the usual indie songs, but now each download costs far more. Not worth it, so I'm leaving the store just before the new prices hit.

Apparently, I'm far from alone.

Techdirt posted a brilliant observation called, rather straightforwardly, "Did No One At eMusic Think About PR Impact of Raising Prices At The Same Time Sony Signed?" Followed by, as of this moment, 42 comments. Apparently, many subscribers on eMusic's own message board are not holding back either.

This scenario is a textbook example of corporate executives living in a bubble. Of course, there is no way people would not have put two and two together (Sony additions + higher prices), and frankly, if there's nothing appealing about Sony's old catalog, then why the heck would you want to pay for it anyway? Are we supposed to get excited about downloading an old Meatloaf album?

I recommend you click through on the link to Techdirt's post because they pretty much nailed it on the head: "Here's a major record label, whose music many eMusic subscribers didn't want in the first place, now being seen as having made life worse (and more expensive) for everyone. By connecting the two issues, it seems like both eMusic and Sony Music are getting hit a lot harder than if the announcements had been separated."


Anonymous said...

I'm fairly new to emusic and I'm bummed out about what I perceive as a shift in emphasis ... but there is cool stuff in the Columbia's vault. It's possible that long-time music fans like myself already own every every Dylan album ...but I will probably pick up some Miles Davis that I don't have ... along with a few other odds and ends. I'm just not sure why emusic needed everything that Sony has ...

Ray Hancart said...

Thanks for the post Drew. I think one of the reasons these decisions are sometimes made in a bubble or vaccum is because there's no corporate communications/PR voice at the table. While I don't know the specifics of the eMusic leadership team, it's pretty obvious a PR voice either wasn't at the table or just wasn't listened to - a mistake either way.

Ray Hancart
Fahlgren Mortine Public Relations

Anonymous said...

I think this decision is pretty much due to Danny S. (of the investment company that bought emusic several years ago) taking over when the original anti-DRM CEO left in October 1008. Of course a money guy is going to make money - and this Sony deal will make money - but it will also alienate the dedicated and evangelistical user base which has sustained emusic all these years. In addition, it changes emusic from an exploratory indie "find new music" site to just another place to get digital downloads.