Goodbye Emusic, and Thanks for All the MP3s — Emusic Gets Acquired, Out Go the Old Rules, Out Go the Subscribers, Too

I’ve been a subscriber to the Emusic mp3 download service on and off for about 2 or so years. I was originally turned on to the service due to a free trial I got with the purchase of a CD burner. I stayed on because Emusic was the most rational of the music download services — (mostly) unlimited mp3 downloads for a monthly fee, with no DRM and the right to burn all the CDs you want (for your personal use).

That all came to a screeching halt today when Emusic subscribers received an e-mail from the company announcing that it had been acquired by “Dimensional Associates LLC (“Dimensional”), a private equity group focused on
providing innovative online music distribution services. ” The e-mail also informs subscribers that the terms of service are changing drastically:

“Unless you visit the link below:
and notify us of your intention to cancel your subscription
prior to November 8, 2003, your EMusic subscription will
convert into Emusic Plus. Under EMusic Plus, you will be
billed $14.99 per month for access to the service with no
minimum monthly commitment, but you will be limited to no
more than 65 downloads during your monthly billing cycle. “

(Here’s a FAQ from Emusic that explains the change).

From (virtually) unlimited mp3s to 65 a month? That’s a big change. At 14.99 a month that makes mp3s costs about 23 cents each, which is cheaper than iTunes 99 cent downloads.

But Emusic is not iTunes. First of all, Emusic has always been focused on small and independent labels, and as such is virtually devoid of Top 40 hits or superstar artists. Whereas one of iTunes strengths is its hoard of popular artists and hit songs.

In my opinion one of Emusic’s strengths — aside from cheap mp3s — was the exposure it gave to indie artists, making their music much more accessible, and giving people the ability to try it out in an unambiguously legal way, which (I presume) also compensated them.

Emusic had been an independent company, which was then acquired by Universal/Vivendi back in 2001, which worried subscribers then that the terms of service would change. Although there had been a slow encroachment of restrictions in the last year or so — limiting how many mp3s you could queue up at once, sending warning e-mails to people downloading “too many” mp3s in a month — by and large the service remained the same as when I first signed up.

Needless to say, I will be cancelling my current subscription before Nov. 8 (though I’ll probably download a ton before that). My guess is that most Emusic subscribers will be following suit. Which makes me wonder how Emusic’s new master expect to make any money with all their subscribers gone.

A quick search of the web, business indices and Lexis-Nexis turns up no information about Dimensional Associates LLC (probably because they are an LLC), so figuring out who they are and their motive is still difficult.

Emusic’s subscriber message boards are closed down today, too. Emusic subscribers tend to be an outspoken lot, so I’m sure it’s a move intended to quiet the anticipated firestorm by not giving subscribers a common forum to vent their frustrations.

Now, some of you might be thinking, “23 cents an mp3 seems pretty reasonable to me, why all the bitching from you spoiled brats?”

And, compared to iTunes’ 99 cents, I guess it does seem pretty reasonable, but compared to downloading entirely for free on Kazaa or other P2P services, it’s not such a good deal, especially since you can’t download unlimited quantities at that price, just 65 a month — then you’re done.

In the bigger picture, this is another example of the music industry shooting itself in the foot over simple greed. I don’t know the financials of Emusic, and I’m sure the selloff is due to the impending merger of NBC and Universal/Vivendi, but from a user’s standpoint it was a very successful service that I was glad to pay money for and never felt ripped off from, even though sometimes mp3s sounded like shit, albums were mislabeled or otherwise screwed up. You’ll tolerate those kind of inconveniences when you’re getting a good deal. I sure as hell wouldn’t tolerate them if I’m limited to just 65 downloads a month.

Will all these former Emusic subscribers now be flocking to other d/l services like iTunes and Rhapsody? I think not, since they won’t have the artists and songs that Emusic specialized in. No, I think they’ll be flocking back to Kazaa, and more secure alternatives, and to their public libraries’ and friend’s collections, where they can borrow and burn with (relative) impunity.

Good bye Emusic.






10 responses to “Goodbye Emusic, and Thanks for All the MP3s — Emusic Gets Acquired, Out Go the Old Rules, Out Go the Subscribers, Too”

  1. Eric Avatar

    Is that 65 mp3s or 65 albums per month?

    if it is mp3s, I bet they lose nearly every customer.

    If it is albums, I may stay, but I’d probably switch to the basic plan, instead. I really don’t download much more than that per month, anyway.

    But if it is 40/65 mp3s per month, I’ll be gone in a heartbeat.

    It sure is slow this morning. I hadn’t heard about the change until I started poking around to see if there was any reason why it was so slow.

    I was going to check the message board to see if anyone else was having trouble with it being slow, but couldn’t find the message board. It didn’t take long to find the announcement.

  2. Paul Avatar

    It’s ony 40 – 65 mp3s a month, not albums. If it were albums I’d say it was more than fair, but 40 – 65 mp3s only amounts to 2 – 4 albums, depending on the length of the album.

    I also found out a little more about Dimensional Associates, which bought emusic:
    “Dimensional Associates’ other holdings include The Orchard, a company that aggregates and distributes the work of independent musicians, and the Digital Club Network, a company that distributes live music online. Executives of the equity group could not be reached for comment.”

    according to Cnet:

  3. anita j Avatar
    anita j

    Well, another innovative company (in that it did feature a lot of indie labels) bites it. Only 65 MP3s a month? On some of the more obscure box sets they have (like the Louis Jordan collections), there are 25 songs on one CD alone.

    I say download the heck out of it before November 8.

  4. Maciek Avatar

    I cancelled my subscription and tried to download as many tracks as I could in the remaining period. Unfortunately, my account was quickly cancelled with $12 refund.

  5. mouser Avatar

    With a limit of 2000 MP3’s a month was ridiculous to think they could ever make any money and still also pay the label and artist a royalty, even if it was a small one. Why the hell didn’t put in a lower limit a month, say 200. I would have still joined and stayed for the nearly 3 years I have been a member. Goodbye E music, it was good while it lasted. Also good luck getting as many downloads as you can, its slow and keeps failing. Clever eh, and the message boards are gone too. Can’t have people complaining can we!

  6. jadeleary Avatar

    “Dimensional Associates’ other holdings include The Orchard…”
    Great. The Orchard is the company that sold music to without artist consent. It was all over web news a few months back. Bodes real well for the future…

    This is such a shame. Emusic was a great service that i evangelized to everyone i knew. It was a music lover’s dream. Time to move on i guess.

  7. crofti Avatar

    EMusic, GetMusic,, and are all owned by Vivendi Universal and located in San Diego, CA. There all going down and being sold off, they have been for over a year now. Has nothing to do with the merger of NBC and VU. VU has been trying to sell those things off for a long time now, nobody wants them. Worked with them for three and half years and was layed off a year ago. Goodbye to all the internet web music sites. Over it and moving into a new career, out of the IT music business. Go to msg boards, there the same boards as EMusic, trust me.

  8. eric Avatar

    They haven’t cancelled my remaining service for trying to download music, but downloading anything now is like pulling teeth.

    Try to download and it just sits there forever saying “Requesting File”. Most of the time, it then either tells you that the download is incomplete or that the server returned an invalid or unrecognized “re…”. Whatever that is.

    It’s like that even in the middle of the night.

    I’ve been attempting to download a couple of albums for more than 24 hours now.

    By the way, what is the service that provides? I can’t find anything about it, or the prices, on their web page. But if you click on the Listen button and select something to listen to, you have to register for a free subscription. Then, if you want to go back and listen, it wants you to register for a two week trial subscription. But I can’t find anything about what that trail subscription is.

    My gut feeling is that when someone refuses to tell you up front what they are trying to sell you, they are just a bunch of crooks trying to hoodwink you.

    I might sign up for a pay service if I know what it is ahead of time, but I’m not going to sign up before finding out.

    And when I try to check out the message boards, it tells me I have to have an artists subscription!

    The web site seems more designed to mislead than anything else.

  9. Richard Avatar

    Like others here, I was a supporter of EMusic and recommended them to everyone I knew. Without their business model, I would not have tried some of the music I did. Some of it hit my recycle bin after I had heard it only a few times. Other artists (like Davol, The Oyster Band and Sonny Criss) found what has so far been a permanent place in my playlists.

    I certainly do not expect to remain a subscriber for long after the new restrictions go into effect, however I am willing to hang around and give them a chance to prove that they haven’t completely lost their minds.

    To retain me as a subscriber, they should either increase the track count limit, or revise their download limitation to be time-based instead of track based. There are several albums I have downloaded that exceed the 40-track limit. Others have only one or two tracks for the same length of time.

    In addition, they probably need to increase the sample size of the streamed tracks from 30 seconds. Ideally that should be to no less than 50% of the full length of the track. I gave up using the streamed sample after several occasions where the sample was not representative of the whole track.

    Finally, I would want them to become more responsive to reported problems with tracks. A “fix” time of 1 – 2 months for a problem track or album would just not be acceptable. With the previous “unlimited” option there was always more to explore. This will no longer be the case.

    Just my $.02


  10. Floor Avatar

    Wow. I’ve read through all of these, and I’m experiencing the same problems.

    But a kind fellow “e-musicer” has given me some advice.

    Here goes:

    When you click on the “download album” button, you are downloading the .emp file.
    Whether you really DO download the mp3’s or not, doesn’t matter, since the album title goes into your account info. And after that, you can download the album as many times as you want, given you stay a member of

    So just go ahead and click download, download, download. Then, stay a member for another month or two and when things have died down, you download the mp3’s you want.

    That is the first thing. The next pointer:

    this is a Russian service. It would take long to explain the ins and outs, but go give them a try. Read through the small print etc. etc.

    I am becoming a member of this service. There are more commercial albums available too there.

    Hope that helps you all.

    If you have further suggestions, do email me at:

    Let’s stick together and find mp3’s worth our money!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *