Digital Music

How eMusic Can Save Its Soul…

I wrote this week about My Problem With eMusic, their payment structure and a lack of free track accounting. An industry insider agreed, but reactions from readers and across the net have been mixed.  Just in case I’ve got anyone’s attention, here’s how I think eMusic can save it’s soul and help indie music by building on top of its strengths and existing infrastructure and business model.


  • Make all blogs, music discovery features and forums public
  • Aggregate top niche music bloggers
  • Include all indie culture: film, art, books, fashion, sports
    • Build a community
    • Link with hip vendors
  • Launch an "INDIE ONLY" MP3 download storeEmusic_2
    • No major label product
    • No subscription required
    • Deep catalog
    • Variable pricing
  • Create a home for D.I.Y. artists
  • Keep selling subscriptions
    • Subscribers become V.I.P’s
      • Similar tracks per month
      • Add discounts & privileges
    • Fewer free tracks
    • Full accounting transparency

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  1. Are you planning on expanding on this list, because several of these items don’t make a lot of sense to me. For instance, the last thing I need is yet another website trying to become an on-line destination for everything (or at least for a bunch of things unrelated to it’s original mission.) I really don’t want eMusic to become a sort of Facebook for indie arts (which is what I’m reading your third bullet point and sub points as.) I don’t need it and it just distracts from the music. And I’m pretty sure the 17dots blog, which is the eMusic blog is public and, last time I checked, one can dig around the site without being a subscriber.
    I could go on, but I’ll save it in hopes that there’s more to come on what exactly you’re suggesting here. Normally I agree with most of what you write here, but I still think with the eMusic stuff, you’re off the mark.

  2. * Make all blogs, music discovery features and forums public
    As far as I’m aware, most of the features are public. Certainly the ability to browse the catalog and navigate to new artists via suggestions, playlists and related artists is all public, as are all the top-10 blogs / lists etc.
    * Aggregate top niche music bloggers
    Become Pitchfork with a shop? No thanks. Let bloggers be “opinion makers” on their own websites. Current user reviews are fine, generally of good quality, concise, and all I need to get a feel for public opinion, if and when I can be bothered to care.
    * Include all indie culture: film, art, books, fashion, sports
    No – absolutely, definitely not. Please. Stop right there. It’s a lovely community of people who are passionate about one thing: independent music. Please keep it focused. I don’t want to fight through the latest neon tank tops, a hipper version of Oprah’s bookclub, or the latest innovation in cricket bats.
    * Build a community
    Already built. Join the fold?
    * Launch an “INDIE ONLY” MP3 download storeEmusic_2
    Last I checked, that is what it is, which is why I subscribed.
    * No major label product
    There isn’t much, if any. Try searching for top-100 bands. Nada. If you’re lucky you get a generic message informing you that eMusic doesn’t carry the artist you searched for, as they are likely too mainstream, and eMusic focuses on independent music.
    * No subscription required
    Why? If not, what’s the point? iTunes has all the same indie and bedroom releases, as does CD Baby, as does eMusic. Bands all use the same 3-4 aggregators who all submit to the same sites and produce very similar catalogs regarding indie releases. What’s cool about eMusic is that you can buy reasonably priced subscriptions to a site filled with independent music, a lively community, and knowledgeable editorial blogs and top-10 lists etc.
    * Deep catalog
    Totally agree. The more music, the better. However, their catalog as it stands is nothing to scoff at.
    * Variable pricing
    I like the fact that it is subscription based. No need for variable pricing, unless they allocate monthly points to subscriber, not downloads. Some songs could be 2, rather than 1 points. 30 second intros of noise could be 0 points if downloaded with the whole album, etc. Not sure all that is really necessary though. Complicates things. I don’t mind the flat fee. One download credit for a 30 noise intro is fine with me, as a 25 minute symphonic movement, too, is only 1 download. All evens out in the end.
    * Create a home for D.I.Y. artists
    How isn’t it? eMusic accepts submissions from CD Baby and tunecore etc. My album will hopefully be on there soon (already had it submitted through CD Baby). It was made in my bedroom, mixed and mastered and paid for by myself. Total DIY, in other words.
    * Keep selling subscriptions
    * Subscribers become V.I.P’s
    Ick! And divide an indie site into different tiers of cooler-than-thou? No. There are different subscription models available. Beyond that everyone has the same rights. I like the egalitarian nature of it.
    * Add discounts & privileges
    See above. Discounts? Yeah… I thought you wanted eMusic to pay MORE, not discount already low rates even more.
    * Fewer free tracks
    Maybe… how about let artists choose if they want to give away a track for free, rather than letting eMusic decide. I would be happy to give one or two tracks away for free on eMusic. More free tracks please, not less. I actually WANT to fall in love with more songs, so I can make better and more passionate purchasing decisions. The more free tracks, the more music I buy.
    * Full accounting transparency
    That would be swell, I agree.

  3. Wow you guys write books rather than comments…Great comments, however.
    The devil my be in the details, but I’ll stand by my general contention that eMusic has an opportunity to expand beyond its core 400,000 indie fans and serve a broader indie audience with a broader product offering…and in doing that they could serve the indie community in less exploitive ways AND make money.

  4. UGH-BRUCE HOUGHTON SHOULD LEAVE EMUSIC ALONE! They’re doing just great as I’m sure most of your readers would agree. I’m interested to know why you are so into taking a crack at them. Bruce – I think you’re the one whose soul needs saving!

  5. Bruce: I don’t think eMusic needs your help, I’ve been a subscriber for many years and I distribute my music through them. We’re more than happy with the service they offer so as the girl above says, why don’t you take a crack at someone else for a change.

  6. imho, customer service must be completely transformed before emusic can become a world class destination for anything. their service is absolutely unacceptable by any measure. it can take multiple messages with no replies or irrelevant form letter replies or flat out incorrect replies before an issue is resolved.

  7. In regards to the ‘indie only mp3 download store’:
    I think we have to keep in mind that most music fans out there don’t even know the difference between an indie and a major label. Hardly anyone out there can list the four major labels. And why should they care?
    All music fans want is ‘get’ the music they like and they can do that for free or pay for it. It’s up to the music service to add value so the fans wants to spend their money/time there. I don’t think by having only a limited selection of music is good value add.

  8. As an artist, I haven’t had any issues with Emusic (so far anyway). But any business model could always stand to be tweaked. And if they care about providing the best service possible to the artistic community, they’ll properly evaluate any and all legitimate concerns (like the ones you raised here).
    Problem is, there’s too much “don’t tell us how to run our business, if you don’t like it go somewhere else” crap out there.

  9. eMusic ROCKS! Bruce Houghton has had it in for them for years, hmmm methinks some personal vendetta of some sort but not sure what really happened. Sorry man but I just don’t trust anything you have to say and I think your readers deserve to know the truth.

  10. eMusic is a great service offering a really fantastic selection of music. As for the labels, they may as much money from their artists who sell in bulk from eMusic users purchases than they would off iTunes. You forget easily that eMusic launches a lot of these acts before they’re even heard of… High Places or Beirut anyone? They’re doing a great job with the labels as far as I’m concerned and this is from a label representative and eMusic subscriber. I’d like to see you take a swipe at Amazon or iTunes for that matter Bruce, just to show you can be fair 😉 Do you accept the challenge?

  11. What do you mean when you say “create a home for DIY artists”? As far as I can tell, eMusic/tunecore/CD baby are “homes” for DIY artists because they allow easy distro of music. But do you mean anything beyond the sense of a retail home?
    I think the web is long over due for a place where DIY artists can make music together online, exchange tips, and join forces to monetize their works.
    Any ideas?

  12. for digital i have been using for years and find them the best and widest providers
    They provide you with over 50 sites, and not just the US based ones.
    iTunes, Play, Amazon, mobile sites like Nokia and Jamster, iTunes Video, we7, HMV, Virgin and loads more
    They have a 4 week turn around compared to CDbabys 6-8 week and you can specify release so that you know when it is going live.
    They also register you for the UK charts.
    They seem to have a wider coverage with about 700 sites including video distribution, ringtones etc
    Definitely one to check out

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