Sony Adding All Songs Over Two Years Old To EMusic; EMusic Raising Prices

Although eMusic is a great service—for a flat monthly fee, you get a set number of downloads per month of DRM-free music tracks—it’s about to get better. Or maybe worse, depending on the breadth of your musical tastes. Today eMusic will announce that Sony is adding its back catalog of songs to eMusic’s library. The bad news is that eMusic also plans to slightly raise prices and/or drop the number of downloads per month. Even if it works out to between 50-60 cents per track, though, that’s still far less than iTunes Music Store or Amazon, and probably the cheapest way to grab music from Sony artists without resorting to piracy.

Don’t blame Sony entirely for the price increase. In the New York Times article reporting the news, the CEO of eMusic basically admits that eMusic has been wanting to raise prices for a while (actually, he blames independent labels), and that this is a good time to do it.

Here’s what the new plans look like:

Plan Name # of Downloads Monthly Cost Cost per track
12 (every 30 days)
24 (every 30 days)
35 (every 30 days)
50 (every 30 days)
75 (every 30 days)

Note: I am not enough of an audiophile to make recommendations about sound quality of most “average” music files. For those of you who care about that sort of thing, eMusic encodes using variable bit rate at 192k.

“Sony Agrees to Provide Its Older Songs to eMusic” [New York Times]
(Photo: tipoyock)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Jon Brackin says:

    This is pretty cool news. It’s definitely a win for EMusic. Unlike many of the labels fighting over prices with Apple and trying to maintain the levels of profitability they had in the past, Sony is making strides to rework it’s business model into the digital era. Maybe someone there realized it costs them less to sell a digital album than a physical one?

    • LegoMan322 says:

      @Jon Brackin: It is very good news that Sony is starting to rework its’ business but I am going to say it might be way…..WAY too late for that to happen.

      Sony has taken hits on ALL sides of the company. From not making a “digital walkman”, to movies, do I really need to mention the PS3?, to their executive brass making really dumb comments about the internet and now their music business.

      Sony has really lost itself and its stride.

    • B.Waite says:

      @kateblack: Me too.

      On the plus side, eMusic has also announced album pricing. If an album has more than 12 tracks, you can get the entire album for only 12 downloads.

  2. shepd says:

    I gave up on eMusic once they gave up on flat-rate pricing. Once they went to the pay-per-song model I invested that money in flat-rate usenet and never looked back. Their excuse was that they were getting too many downloads and couldn’t handle the bandwidth. Well, there’s plenty of bandwidth now… so why not go back to the old, popular system?

    The flat rate offer was great while it lasted, and it’s the sort of thing that encourages artists to keep making music.

    • Ben Edwards says:

      @shepd: Usenet’s free.

      • kc2idf says:

        @Ben Edwards:

        (1) Not if your ISP doesn’t carry it (many don’t anymore)

        (2) Not if you want a good, fast Usenet host that won’t bog down when grabbing large numbers of binaries and won’t censor.

        • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

          @kc2idf: paying for piracy is awful. (if you’re going to pirate, do that. but paying to do so, where the artists don’t get any of the revenue? pure evil.)

    • Wombatish says:

      @shepd: I gave up on Emusic when I went there once and couldn’t find anything but a smattering of popular music, and then a large amount of indy stuff that, while good, is not what I was looking for.

      And then, seeing all the indy stuff, I searched for my indy stuff that I do like, and they had none of it. Never been back.

  3. WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

    192kb/s is very good quality. Given the quality of your average PC soundcard or MP3 player ear buds, anything better is likely to be lost. Plus, the variable bitrate encoding means that if the music is more complex, the bitrate goes up, preserving quality.


    You can compare a sample and the original uncompressed .wav file at that link.

  4. kateblack says:

    That blows. I’d rather have emusic keep prices the same and sacrifice the Sony tracks. There’s rarely a shortage of good tracks on the site.

    • kc2idf says:

      @kateblack: Trouble is that if you like a particular band, you are bound to the label that carries that band. No getting around it.

  5. Kyle McCowin says:

    eM has been really good in the past about grandfathering in existing users. Last time they raised prices/lowered downloads they told existing users that we could continue to renew our existing plans at their then-current rates forever as long as we stuck with that plan. So I’ve been on the now non-existent 65 tracks/month plan for years now. It works out to about 17-cents a song.

    And for audio geeks customer service told me that they use LAME with -alt-preset standard to encode their music. But that was a couple years ago and may have changed.

    • e says:

      @Kyle McCowin: I was on the same deal, grandfathered in to 50 tracks for $12 per month. Looks like that will change come July, though. They’re switching me to $12 for 30 songs. I’ve been on the fence about spending money on eMusic while I cut other expenses, so this news may make up my mind for me.

      • Kyle McCowin says:

        @e: I just noticed they’re doing the same thing to me. I pay $269.82 for 2-years at 65 tracks/month which works out to $0.173 per track. Now they’re saying starting August 2010 it will switch to 35 songs @ ~$171 which works out to $74 more per 2-year period for 30 fewer tracks. I just e-mailed customer service quoting the guarantee from 2006, “Your selected plan will be guaranteed as long as you keep your account active and in good standing.”

        Well my account has been in good standing since I joined in 1999 and constantly active since TMBG Unlimited in 2001. But I still think this guarantee is not going to be honored.

        • Kyle McCowin says:

          @Kyle McCowin: I got a form letter saying they’re definitely switching my account in August 2010. It made no mention of the guarantee that they’re reneging on.

  6. zandar says:

    Sony + snarky comment about indie labels = why I’m not a member.

    Now that we have the luxury, I’d rather target my buying power for those who need it most, the artists themselves if possible, artist-friendly independent labels secondarily.

  7. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    I love the idea of eMusic. The reality was not so great, though. I entered the information from my “free 50 downloads” card and was given a “free 25 downloads” offer. Then my “free month” inexplicably ended at 6PM on the 30th day (OK, yeah, I guess that’s a GMT vs EST thing, but it should have been mentioned). I once found a Glenn Tilbrook CD via links from either Squeeze or Chris Difford (can’t recall), but that same CD wouldn’t show up as a result if you just searched Glenn Tilbrook. And the full Squeeze album I bought had the individual track MP3s improperly separated, so that the first few seconds of track N+1 were heard as part of track N.

    I’m sure it’s a great service for some people; my experience with it was less than satisfactory.

  8. Ilovemygeek says:

    Yeah I’m dropping emusic because of this. I had 50 downloads for 11.99 and now they’ve notified me that they are dropping it to 30 downloads for the same price. Their catalog is not great enough for me to even consider this a decent offer.

  9. Unsolicited Advice says:

    Hey look, another service that woefully underperforms the basic utility of bittorrent is introducing a ridiculous series of convoluted pricing schemes! And while EMusic joins other nonsense “charge tons of money for digital distribution” platforms in failure, I will remain on the “pay a-la-carte for band merch at shows” model.

  10. Chadams28 says:

    eMusic needs to do a LOT better when it cmoes to customer notification. They raise and lower prices & number of downloads and it has alternately worked out to both my advantage and detriment. One change will net me more downloads than they allow others, the other change marks my monthly fee up by $5.

    It sounds like they stopped caring about customer loyalty the way they used to when they would shield their longer-standing clients from download decreases or price increases. I also thought it was a point of pride that they sold only music from independent record labels. So much for that…

    I’ll ride this one out for a few months and weigh my satisfaction with their expanded catalog against price/# of downloads ratio & ever-changing subscription terms. They might get the boot this time (after a few close calls), though I hope that’s not the case.

    • Chadams28 says:

      @Chadams28: I mean, that they’re not as on top of notifying customers of subscription changes than they used to be. I don’t remember getting a note that my subscription price went up when it did the last time.

  11. takes_so_little says:

    I’m a big fan of emusic’s catalog, they have some great music. This news is a plus I guess, I don’t really know which artists I like are with which record company, but more is better I guess.

    Unfortunately, though, music subscription was a cost we chose to cut awhile back, along with movie subscription, cable tv, and others. I make extensive use of the public library and actually get some pretty good, up-to-date music (I have the new Decemberists on hold as I write this). I can’t be as impulsive or wide-ranging in what music I get, but the price is right.

  12. Ilovemygeek says:

    I only saw the notification when I logged in to get the rest of my monthly downloads, they didn’t email notifications out at all. The only allowance they made to previous customers this time was a 10 song booster pack in August. I’ve been a member since 2006 and every time they made changes they gave a slightly higher allowance to previous customers, this time, it just is dropping me to the basic download structure.

    • drmk says:

      @Ilovemygeek: I just got the notification as well. I’m on the 50-track a month plan (which works out to .22 per song) and I’m being dropped to the 35-track per month plan (at a cost of .45 per song), and they’re giving me 15 bonus tracks in August.

      They may have just lost me as a subscriber as well.

      I was pleased that they grandfathered me in during their last pricing change, but this is ridiculous. They’re doubling the cost, and that’s unacceptable.

      • syndprod says:

        @drmk: I’m also a bit upset at the downgrade I’ll be hit with. I have been a member since 2005 and was on the 75/month plan for $192/yr, or 900 songs for $192 per year (0.21 each).

        Now I find that when it’s time to renew, I’ll be automatically put on the 35/month plan for $172/yr, or 420 songs per year at $0.40 each.

        I joined eMusic specifically for the indie and alternative music, not for mainstream material. Sure, it will be nice to grab the occasional back catalog track, but most of my downloads will still be small label tracks.

        Ohhh. I’m peeved.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I now understand why emusic has refused to renew my contract by not taking my monthly payment. I was one of the “legacy” customers who still had a contract that allowed the same amount of downloads as when I joined. I can understand raising prices, but their treatment of longtime customers is abominable. I will be taking my money and spending it on other services such as

  14. luxmatic says:

    Emusic has a very warped definition of “slightly raising prices.” My $19.99 for 90 tracks has been been downgraded to 50 tracks. Almost DOUBLING the cost per track.

  15. iam118 says:

    Yeah my annual account is dropping from 90 tracks a month to 35 for the same price. Emusic you just lost a long time customer and go fuck yourself.

  16. Spaztrick says:

    I joined eMusic back in 2001 to take advantage of the They Might be Giants offer (TMBG Unlimited). Not a bad deal then , $10 a month for unlimited downloads. I did find a few problems with a couple of albums being encoded wrong (John S Hall & Kramer’s “Real Men” even had incorrect track names). I and several friends notified customer service about it and was basically told that if the names were wrong, we could rename them ourselves and if any tracks had encoding errors it was just too bad. Once TMBG Unlimited came to an end, so did my business with eMusic. Never looked back after getting unlimited usenet for a set price.

  17. JGKojak says:

    This is a step in the right direction… but let’s see if any of these songs are in the catalog:
    Too Much Too Little Too Late
    Right Place, Wrong Time
    Couldn’t Get It Right

    Had they done this 10 years ago, its likely we would have seen the music business be in much different shape than it is now.

  18. golddog says:

    In addition to the other comments re. pricing, the thing I found super annoying about Emusic was you absolutely must use those downloads within the ‘per month’ time period – you paid for them, what do they care if you download them today or three months from now – and the term ‘per month’ is misleading; they work on a lunar cycle or something b/c I found myself being charged 13x per year. Per month means ‘charge me on the x of every month’.

  19. icruise says:

    @shepd: @shepd: Doesn’t emusic still have a flat rate plan? I know I pay a certain amount each month for a certain number of songs.

    • shepd says:


      Emusic offered flat-rate as in you pay $9.99 (IIRC) for access to everything for a month. You downloaded whatever you want whenever you wanted it. It was great, I used it for at least a year.

      Yes, paying for “piracy”* is awful. I’d love to support the industry. I tried. The industry failed to figure it out, and with DRM, has just gotten further and further away.

      eMusic was so close, but I guess you just can’t keep a good thing going when it comes to business. You can either make your service as good (or better–eMusic was great because it was properly cataloged, good quality, and LOTS of selection) than what’s available pirated and take my money, or you can make it not as good as what I can pirate and I’ll give my money to people that appreciate it more.

      * “piracy” because in Canada it is 100% legal to download any and all music you want without paying–the artists are supposedly compensated for this (I don’t believe a word of the compensation part of it, but it was a Canadian judge that decided downloading was legal). It is, however, specifically illegal to upload. You don’t need to upload when using usenet, hence why it’s a great choice up here.

      That being said, Canadians have a long history of paying for piracy. The best example is legitimately paying for US/”foreign” satellite service… that’s piracy here, too. And, of course, so is the traditional way of pirating it.

      • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

        @shepd: With regards to your comment on Canada – we have to pay a “Music Industry Subsidy” (a tax) of 29 cents on every single blank CD/DVD-r that is purchased. They are also are talking about taxing individual music downloads. This money is supposedly to offset piracy. It was argued that since everybody has to pay this tax, regardless whether they are using their blank CD/DVD’s to hold pirated music, ones own musical compilations, or a video of Grandma’s 80’th birthday, we’re essentially already “paying” for the privilege of downloading (even if we don’t.)

      • pot_roast says:

        @shepd: I got screwed by emusic. I had that same plan, and I was on a yearly subscription. Then they switched to VBR rips, so I was re-downloading my collection. They then suspended my account for “abnormal behavior” and when I told them “Uh, I’m downloading stuff that I already own, just at a higher bitrate” they reinstated it but shortly after came out with the limited accounts. They went from unlimited downloads per month to something like 40, raised prices, and told me that I couldn’t cancel because I was in a ‘contract’ with them. A contract that they changed completely. I ended up having to wage war with them and the credit card company, but i was able to cancel it.

        • Kyle McCowin says:

          @pot_roast: That’s really weird. AFAIK they’ve always had a policy that you can re-download stuff from your Profile page for free as long as you maintain your subscription. So those shouldn’t have counted against your 40 at all as long as you used the download links on the profile page instead of the ones on the individual album pages.

  20. deweydecimated says:

    Oh great. My subscription now has half the buying power it did, and they’re in cahoots with the rootkit-of-all-evil.

  21. Ilovemygeek says:

    I loved the notice that had a listing of Sony music. Forgive me for not getting excited about The Dixie Chicks and Michael Jackson. Can I forgo the Sony crap and keep my downloads as is?

  22. foodporncess says:

    I really like eMusic, and this doesn’t change my mind at all.

  23. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    I just got an emusic account last month but didn’t realize that “unused” downloads do NOT roll over to the next month *sigh*. I just lost 9 downloads due to my not checking this out beforehand *headdesk.*

  24. Mike Toole says:

    Uh, wow. Looks like my $20-for-75-songs plan is getting the price bumped up 50%. If these prices are accurate I will have to cancel. I love eMusic’s indie selection (just got Gogol Bordello’s entire catalog) and don’t give a toss about Sony.

  25. jamar0303 says:

    Depends on what Sony’s handing over. If it’s their whole global catalog 2 years and older as well as sub-labels (Epic Records Japan, for instance) I might be into this. If they’re only handing over their US catalog, then yeah, I couldn’t care less. I just want a decent way to get Japanese music without jumping through hoops (because Sony Japan didn’t let their stuff be put on iTunes).

  26. David Alexander McDonald says:

    Long time fan of eMusic, but this is a bit of a drastic shift in cost…prior shifts haven’t been quite so hefty on the Richter scale (aside from transitioning from unlimited to monthly packs initially.) On the bright side, they’re now setting up album deals — anything over 12 tracks can be downloaded whole for twelve download credits. This apparently doesn’t affect those humungous cuts….

    I’ll be happy with the Sony deal if it comes with the Sony/Columbia classical and soundtrack catalogue.

  27. Black-Cat says:

    And yet it still mystifies companies like Sony why people use p2p…

  28. Anonymous says:

    Piracy? I’m not a pirate. I don’t raid ships to steal CDs out of their cargo holds.

    I also don’t infringe copyright, nor contribute to others’ infringment. I also try to only buy from independent labels and artists.

    With this deal and the prices going down (plus their use of the ubiquitous but patented MP3 format means only certain hardware players I own can legally play it, because I haven’t “purchased” the MP3 decoder for my GNU/Linux machines) I’m even less interested in Emusic.

    However I might refer some of my relatives to the service.

  29. drmk says:

    I emailed eMusic to express my disappointment in the new pricing structure and to point them to this thread. The response I got was a canned regurgitation of the “Isn’t this GREAT?!” bullshit on their website, without addressing my point.

    I’m displeased.

  30. stands2reason says:

    192k is nigh-on transparent, or well beyond it, depending on the quality of the audio listening hardware.

    Also they use 192 Average Bitrate ABR, not VBR. VBR specifically refers to encoding that goes for a set quality of music, and usually producing MP3s within a certain range of bitrates.