Well, I significantly underestimated how far eMusic was willing to go in terms of changing its pricing to attract major label content. My personal guess was that Sony demanded a minimum price of at least $0.30 per track, but based on the new US pricing it appears that the new floor is actually $0.40 per track.

More specifically, the plan changes are as follows:

  • The eMusic Basic plan is still $11.99 per month, but has been reduced to 24 downloads ($0.50 per song) from the previous 30 downloads ($0.40 per song), or a 25% per-track price increase.
  • The eMusic Plus plan is now 35 downloads for $15.89 per month ($0.45 per song) vs. $14.99 per month for 50 downloads ($0.30 per song) under the previous plan, or a 50% per-track price increase.
  • The eMusic Premium plan is now 50 downloads for $20.79 per month ($0.42 per song) vs. $19.99 per month for 75 downloads ($0.27 per song) under the previous plan, or a 56% per-track price increase.
  • The eMusic Connoisseur plan is now 75 downloads for $30.99 per month ($0.41 per song) or 100 downloads for $40.99 per month (also $0.41 per song) vs. 100 downloads for $24.99 per month ($0.25 per song) under the previous plan, or a 65% per-track price increase. Also, the new Connoisseur plans are available only as upgrades from another plan, and require a minimum 3-month commitment; previously the Connoisseur 100 plan was offered as an option at sign-up time, with no minimum commitment required.
  • People with annual and 2-year plans will be moved to higher-priced plans when their old plans refresh. In my case the default choice offered is to move from my (grandfathered) Basic 2-year plan offering 40 downloads a month for $89.91 per year ($0.19 per song) to a standard Premium Annual plan offering 35 downloads a month for $171.99 per year ($0.41 per song), or a 119% per-track price increase.
  • When downloading at least some complete albums with more than 12 tracks, only the first 12 downloads will be counted against the subscriber’s monthly quota.
  • Booster pack downloads now range from $0.60 per track (when bought in packs of 5 or 10) to $0.50 per track for a pack of 50. I don’t have a complete record of the old pricing, but as far as I’m aware this is not a major change from previously.
  • eMusic is offering a free one-time 15-track booster pack to subscribers who stay with eMusic past July.

I’ll have more to say about the overall changes at eMusic in future posts, but for now I wanted to note a few additional points regarding the new pricing:

  • Presuming it came from eMusic directly and was not a misquote, the comment in the New York Times article that “eMusic says it will slightly raise prices and reduce the number of downloads for some of its monthly plans” was extremely disingenuous, to say the least. As far as I can tell all US plans have had the number of downloads reduced, and per-track price increases of 50% (for eMusic Plus), 56% (for eMusic Premium), and 65% (for eMusic Connoisseur) are hardly “slight.”
  • As noted above, it appears that $0.40 per track is the new floor for eMusic US prices. I cannot find any published option offering a per-track price less than $0.4095 (available through the eMusic Plus Annual plan). There does not appear to be an annual option for the Premium or Connoisseur plans, and 2-year plans appeared to have been eliminated altogether.
  • Subscribers get just less than a 10% discount for choosing an annual plan vs. 12 months of a monthly plan. (The eMusic Basic Annual plan is $129.99 or $10.83 per month vs. $11.99 for the corresponding monthly plan, while the eMusic Plus Annual plan is $171.99 or $14.33 per month vs. $15.89 for the corresponding monthly plan.)
  • By eliminating the Connoisseur plan as an option at sign-up and offering only three options (Basic, Plus, and Premium), eMusic has reverted to a more straightforward “Goldilocks pricing” strategy, with the eMusic Plus plan presumably the one eMusic would like most subscribers to choose.
  • eMusic has mitigated the price increases slightly by offering subscribers the ability to download “selected” albums with more than 12 tracks and be charged only 12 downloads. However it remains to be seen how many albums will actually be priced in this manner. (I suspect that this may depend on individual labels and whether they choose to do this for all or some of their releases through eMusic.)

All in all this is the biggest change in eMusic pricing for quite some time, and judging by the reaction of the subscribers who frequent the eMusic message board, probably the most controversial change since eMusic was originally acquired by Dimensional Associates and discontinued its “all you can eat” unlimited download model.

Amanda (NankerPhledge on eMu) - 2009-06-02 05:00

Thanks for doing all this work. On my “grandfathered” 90 plan I am going to 50 for $19.95 – same price as now, 40 fewer downloads – plus a 25 pack booster. So its a bit different for these older plans. Is that 39.9c? Maths is not my strong suit. Also, I should flag the predicament of subscribers who use the US store but are not in the US (ie outside of UK, EU and Canada which have their own stores) – we are getting the same changes with no guarantee of getting the major label content. I would like eMusic to clarify this, but my experience of geographical distribution makes me pessimistic that I will see the “not available in your country (Australia)” message when I click on come July 1st.

Amanda (NankerPhledge on eMu) - 2009-06-02 05:01

Correction: $19.99, not $19.95.

Michelle (artemis@bluetrail.com) - 2009-06-02 05:18

Note that those wishing a last splurge on $.30/track songs can still get 100 song download cards at places like Target for $29.99. You have a year from purchase to add them to an emusic account and then 60 days after that to use them up.

captwhiffle - 2009-06-02 06:14

Thanks for doing all that math! I’m no good at math, but you’ve confirmed what I’ve been suspecting all day: we’re getting screwed.

polydaidaloi.com » Blog Archive » Farewell eMusic but thanks for the tunes. - 2009-06-02 11:11

[…] Amanda, I learned that online music provider eMusic is not only changing its pricing structure but has also signed a deal with Sony to distribute its back catalogue via the site. This has caused […]

Hassan (hassanchop@gmail.com) - 2009-06-02 14:10

I have used Emusic since it was all you can eat and I do not like the changes. I was on a 1 year plan for 191. a year. I figure for the same plan it will be a 93.78% increase which sucks. I am not sure how much of the Sony catalog interests me because I have most of it. There has to be a better way that this to treat a portion of your customer base.

eMusic’s New Pricing | Avant Music News - 2009-06-02 14:49

[…] uproar is deafening. I’ve blogged about how I feel, as has Brandon Wu, and others. Check out eMusic’s official blog and the hundreds of negative comments that they have […]

Frank Lynch - 2009-06-02 17:12

Bono once said the first sign of old age was in your record collection, and I’ve been using eMusic to keep mine young, at small economic risk (I am [was?] on the 75dl/$20 plan). Older Sony/Columbia recordings don’t interest me a whit- - I pretty much have all I want from them from 2+ years ago. But I enjoyed finding new bands like Califone and Fluttr Effect and the Slip and Calexico, and I would NOT have tried them otherwise. This significant price increase, while still below iTunes and Amazon, hurts. About all I can see it being valuable for are track packed recordings like the old Jimmie Rodgers or Pete Seeger sets, where it’s over 20 tracks/CD. As Samuel Johnson once said about an inn in Scotland with far too little to offer, “we did not express much satisfaction.”

Bigbigpop - 2009-06-02 18:21

My grandfathered in plan of 50/11.99 has been axed to 30/11.99. That’s in at just under $0.40/track according to my math.

Sony & eMusic: era uma vez um clube de música indie | Remixtures - 2009-06-02 18:41

[…] há bela sem senão, para aceitar este acordo a SMEI deve ter certamente exigido como contrapartida preços mais elevados por cada música descarregada. Quem paga são os subscritores da eMusic. Assim, a partir de agora, […]

Nergal (tergon@earthlink.net) - 2009-06-02 23:21

Hecker, As always I want to thank you for your metered and edcuated post on the state of eMusic. I must say that after reading sooooo many of the comments of Dots (i’m sure yancey’s defienitly got a headache, that was many more than the 15 it takes ;) ) I eneded up just deleteing the rest. I’m not pleased with the increase,but not so much to leave my beloved emusers and what not. I’ll be glad to see some of the classic stuff. But, like you i’ve been around a while and seen many changes. i’m sure the editorial staff and us longtimers will make the best of it. thanks for passing my tweet to all and following up with wonderful blog posts. cheers, Nergal

Village Green Studios - 2009-06-04 00:17

On eMusic I could afford to be adventurous and sample all kinds of things. Now, not so much. And why? So I can access to downloading loads of music I already know about? Meaning I already own it or don’t care to. I wouldn’t download Thriller for a ¢01 let alone ¢41/track. Feels like eMusic was completely unaware of their core customer. We’re talking about this on the rock blog, http://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/index.php/2009/06/02/i-m-so-mad-at-my-emusic

Suncat (djones1415@aol.com) - 2009-06-04 03:22

Was on the old $19.99 for 90 downloads per month. Going to 50—180% increase—almost DOUBLED the price for a subscriber who has been with them for four years. CYA, eMusic. Companies with this idea of customer service should go out of business. They set the price for me four years ago. I agreed. If they mispriced it, their bad. If their cost structure changed, their bad–they shouldn’t have offered at that price for those downloads. Fact is, they NEEDED subscribers like me at the time. And they got them. Now, they raise the price. First cousin to bait and switch.

Frank Lynch - 2009-06-04 13:00

I realized this morning that the doubling of my per download price isn’t a linear issue - - not in the sense that it makes me half as willing to experiment or download tracks. It’s a TRANSFORMATIONAL issue, in that the price point goes past the marginal value for experimenting with a new artist or adding to my collection of some artists. (For those who didn’t take econ, or whose learning rusty, marginal value ties into diminishing returns: with each successive unit, the value of an additional unit declines.) Thus, while I have 15 CD’s worth of Sun Ra on my player and 15 more CD’s worth of Sun Ra in my emusic “saved” list, 40 cts a track on additional Sun Ra is higher than my marginal valuation. So I would download NO more Sun Ra, not half as much. Regarding incentives to experimentation, I think eMusic and any labels who asked for the price increase may be hurting themselves. I would imagine the following compromise could be easily implemented, yet still allow for the revenue requirements and allow for experimentation. Simply this: charge the “old” price for the tracks you download from the first CD’s set, and the “new” price for those thereafter. In this way, experimentation could still be promoted, but additional revenue would there for subsequent efforts. I downloaded a LOT of Calexico and Califone; after the first downloads, I wasn’t experimenting, I was making educated selections.

Urfwin (geda740@hotmail.com) - 2009-06-04 15:22

Why didn’t eMusic just stick to their ‘old’ subscription plan, implement the major labels, and charge you $.10 extra for downloading a major label track? Would be fair to anyone who only joined eMusic for the indie-labels.

Frank Lynch - 2009-06-04 16:38

Urfwin, one article I read suggest that some of the independent labels also wanted a price increase; adding Sony was an “opportunity.”

scruss - 2009-06-05 14:18

Looks like eMusic Canada subscribers are getting all the price increases, but none of the major label content or the capping out albums at 12 tracks. Weak. (oh wait, I think I’m supposed to say “Swindleeeee!” here …)

SunCat (djones1415@aol.com) - 2009-06-05 19:08

I hope customers leave them by the droves. I am. Music is a discretionary purchase. I’ll spend my $20 per month elsewhere. They won’t miss me. But if 2000 more join me, they will. They have made the business judgment that after all of our complaining, they are still lower than Amazon and iTunes, so we will complain but we have nowhere to go. They could have increased prices for new members and rewarded loyal old customers. Don’t let this price increase work for them. Just say NO. Cancel!

Serra (serhan_ozmen@hotmail.com) - 2009-06-06 13:11

Yes I agree with both messages on top. I will also quit experimenting as I did with these higher prices. They should just charge more for the major label content. I am no in emusic for that content. They could even create a new plan to include major label content but leave the old ones as they were. There were well positioned, now they are trying to be like the others and they have the risk of dying abandoning their initial value proposition.

Zach (crunchyave@yahoo.com) - 2009-07-03 19:21

I have canceled my account as of july 1st. Emusic always attracted me because it offered an opportunity to discover new music at a price that allows the user to extend their musical tastes at little risk, far below what you would pay for downloads elsewhere. I personally don’t care one bit about adding any major label tripe to the site, so paying for this “upgrade” is out of the question for me. I don’t listen to that, instead opting for avant garde, electronic music, metal, and other generally obscure musics. So paying more for less downloads to get something I didn’t want was the last straw. I think this may be the case for many users, and it’s sad to see that eMusic is choosing to take away from the qualities that made it unique. BTW, a quick comment on the new “12 downloads for an album” plan: This may work out okay if every album you want has more than 12 tracks on it, and I have in the past passed albums over because of how many downloads one album would cost. HOWEVER, eMusic has also decided that any track longer than 15 minutes (of which there are many in my chosen genres) can only be purchased by downloading the entire album at a cost of 12 credits. So, many albums that previously cost 1-5 downloads now must be purchased for 12.

emusic eats itself | Porch Dog - 2009-07-07 21:01

[…] right now, having just recently made a deal with Sony and (not coincidentally) dramatically hiked their prices.  For some this represents a dramatic improvement for emusic: even though the price-per-download […]

Bob (spam@spam.com) - 2009-07-09 10:33

Longtime customer, cancelled last night. Emusic has to keep two out of three existing customers to make this price increase work. I suspect some will cancel, some will lower their plans limits. Terrible marketing though. People went to them because they were different. Hated to cancel but some new service will pop up.

Abdur-Ra’uf (transphericity@yahoo.com) - 2009-07-12 09:45

Not only that, but many Indian Classical albums are only one track of about 20 to 25 minutes and cost 12 downloads.

Jan (all.my.email@gmail.com) - 2009-07-18 11:54

I am with Bob on this one. I was on the $19.99/90 a month for over 3 years. Gonna grab my expensive 50 downloads and call it quits with eMusic. It’s too bad. I really loved taking risks on obscure world music. But now, it’s just not worth it.

TH (tanahargest@earthlink.net) - 2009-07-21 00:44

I just canceled. I had been a member since 2004, on the $24.99 for 100 downloads plan. I was to be cut to 50 downloads for $19.99. It just wasn’t worth it for me to continue. I primarily sought out jazz and classical, made a few new discoveries in other genres. Although I was unhappy with the change to my plan, it was really the new “12 downloads for an album” and download restrictions for longer tracks that convinced me to cancel. I was running across too many 5-track albums that now cost 12 downloads and too many download restrictions on longer classical and jazz tracks. As far as I’ve seen, the “12 downloads for an album” isn’t really being applied to multi-track classical or opera albums in a way that would benefit customers. Plus, truly helpful members like Nereffid have closed up shop and deleted their lists, so there really isn’t any incentive to stay.

jaredean (shop@prolook.com) - 2009-09-02 15:15

I agree completely and cancelled with several e-mails to whoever would listen that it is a terrible way to treat the customers that made them great…i’ve been a customer since 2002 and when they grandfathered me in their last increase i knew i was locked in and thought i’d never leave since i was getting 90dl/20bucks – why would i ever go anywhere…sure, it was a price increase - but they showed me they appreciated my loyalty…with the latest increase and dropping of my grandfather status i’ve cancelled my account - they obviously don’t care about me anymore, so i hope more people are like you and I - if enough of us cancel they will get the message…