eMusic to departing subscribers: We won’t forget you (not)

2 minute read

Harald Walker wrote me to note that eMusic seems to have changed its past policies regarding how it treats departing subscribers:

Maybe something new from eMusic. As far as I know it has been possible in the past to stop the paid subscription for a while and activate it many months later without loosing your account data, which is important if you have to download tracks again (if eMusic still has them) and if you want to keep your lists. ... At least that's how it was in 12/2003 when I stopped for while.

As it happens, I did the exact same thing: I initially subscribed to eMusic in June 2002, cancelled my subscription in December 2004 (because I was having trouble finding enough new music worth downloading) and then resubscribed in June 2005 (just over six months later) with all my account information restored to the state it was at prior to my cancellation.

Now eMusic gives departing subscribers a 60-day grace period after they cancel service, after which it deletes all their account information; from the current message eMusic is sending upon cancellation:

Your eMusic ... subscription has been cancelled and will expire at the end of your current billing cycle. Your profile data and download history will be deleted from our records in 60 days unless you reactivate your account within that timeframe.

Because eMusic provides DRM-free MP3 tracks, departing subscribers still retain all the music they downloaded prior to cancelling; at worst they’ll now lose the ability to redownload tracks from eMusic should they ever resubscribe past the 60-day window. That ability was and is a convenient way to replace any tracks a subscriber might have lost to due to a hard drive failure or accidental deletion.

(However note that such redownloading is not a true substitute for backing up your eMusic MP3 collection, because you can’t redownload tracks that have been pulled from eMusic by their labels. Again, this happened to me: I deliberately deleted some Butchies albums from my collection, regretted it later, and then found that the albums in question were no longer available on eMusic.)

eMusic’s retaining subscriber profile information indefinitely also meant that returning subscribers would find all their save for later choices intact, as well as any album and track lists that they might have published for others to view. Subscribers posting on the eMusic message boards could also come back and participate in discussions under the same nickname, as if nothing had happened in the interim.

Although this policy change is a net loss from the point of view of eMusic subscribers, I have to say that I’m sympathetic to eMusic’s position in this matter. The problem from eMusic’s point of view is that some subscribers were apparently deliberately dipping in and out of the service: They would subscribe for a few months, downloading their full quotas each month, cancel their service, resubscribe a few months later when they felt like downloading more tracks, and then repeat the whole process. If enough people did this then it would mess up eMusic’s business model, which depends on the average subscriber not downloading their full quota each month.

Thus eMusic has made what I think is a reasonable compromise: If you cancel and regret it soon thereafter, you can come back within 60 days and be treated like the prodigal son. After that time it’s hey, I don’t think I know you and you have to start afresh just as if you were an eMusic n00b.