On the eMusic message boards I just saw a post from rednano74 about Amazon offering “50 albums for $5”. Silly me, I thought this meant for $5 I could buy 50 albums, or $0.10 an album. This of course was just a fever dream; Amazon is simply continuing its standard practice of discounting selected MP3 albums from $9.99 to $5 or less.

It’s interesting though: I looked through these 50 albums and didn’t see anything that was attractive to me at a $5 price point. This seems to be my general experience with Amazon’s discounted albums. (I subscribe to the @AmazonMP3 Twitter feed, so I see pretty much everything that appears.) When offered an essentially random collection of discounted albums, a $5, $3, or even $2 price is typically not sufficient to motivate me to purchase something I’m not already seeking out; only at the $0.99 per album level do I tend to make an impulse purchase from Amazon.

This is somewhat at variance with my eMusic experience, where I download lots of complete albums that fall into the $2-4 range. I think this is due to a number of factors: First, and probably most important, eMusic’s download-based system hides the true prices to some extent; I just know that I have X downloads and I need to use them for something. This is also related to the issue of mental accounting costs (aka mental transaction costs): I’ve already paid my money for eMusic, so (unlike Amazon) decisions about what to download don’t invoke the “paralysis by analysis” of deciding whether a particular album is worth spending money on.

Second, I know that everything on eMusic is already discounted, so I can just explore the catalog on my own and not have to wait for discount offers to come to me. Finally, I think with 17 dots, the message boards, etc., eMusic is doing a better job of explaining exactly why I should download something; as I noted, Amazon is just spraying discount offers at me at random with no context or justification. This ties in with my previous argument that a good strategy for eMusic would be to pursue a role as a thought leader and trusted advisor for its customers.

listener (ritamike5310@hotmail.com) - 2008-11-30 21:47

But what if you’re unable to get the downloads that your eMusic membership fee covers? I say do not waste your money on eMusic! First of all, my billing date was changed by a day, so I am being charged $11.95 for a month *after* I canceled my membership on my previous billing days. Secondly, I was unable to download all of the tracks I had coming to me. When I tried to download, it appeared that the track was downloaded, but I kept receiving an error message. I have repeatedly asked Customer Service what happened to my downloads and, although I have received e-mails in response, they did not answer my question. This has been a very frustrating experience.

Amanda - 2008-12-05 06:00

Was it “essentially random”? I thought the 50 for $5 were (I believe) the top 50 albums downloaded on Amazon its not surprising eMu hardcorers would not find much tempting. If they’re that popular, you already know about them and if you want them, you’ve bought them already. I can’t access it anyway since I’m out of the USA but it would make a good supplement for the more mainstream stuff I want. Even with our currency at appalling levels against the USD (causing me to pause a couple of my eMu accounts), even $9 USD is cheaper than iTunes here.