Monday, June 1, 2009

eMusic Adds Sony, Loses Customers

Online indie music leader eMusic announced over the weekend the imminent addition of Sony to its catalog of indie labels. With that announcement, in considerably smaller print, came the news that the price structure is changing in what effectively amounts to a doubling of price (or halving of service) for any long-time customer of the monthly subscription structured download service. What isn't stated explicitly is what an utter fucking textbook sellout this represents. It's like your favorite independent record shop proudly telling you it's added the entire Top 40 roster to its shelves, although it's agreed to double its prices to do so. The appropriate responses are "Who gives a shit?" and "Fuck you" respectively.

Those of us who've been patronizing eMusic for several years viewed it as the online equivalent of the indie record store - a smaller, but more thoughtfully curated and diverse inventory sold by knowledgeable music lovers and built as a community of like-minded souls. The reasonably-priced monthly plans allowed for experimentation by track or by album, making it not just an economical supplement to iTunes and physical media, but, absent decent radio, good music magazines and a national footprint of major record stores, a place to actually discover new music. We've been evangelists for the service, signing up friends, mailing links, latterly cross-linking to Facebook. Someone just shat in my loyalty.

I hate to get all music snob here, but the dribbling, tin-eared corporate enthusiasm about adding Cash, The Clash and Springsteen to the catalog doesn't fly. I already own fucking Nebraska. I already have The Clash's catalog. I already ignore the complete recorded output of Bob Dylan. I've done my time in Foundations Of Pop And Rock 101 already — why the hell should I have to subsidize someone else's basic musical education?

Beyond the pricing and the relevance, a foreshadowing of what this means to the community aspects of eMusic can be easily gleaned from a comparison of the quality of peer reviews on the site versus, say, iTunes. I'm buggered if I'll wade through hundreds of pages of "OMG Alicia ROX click Yes if u agree" just to find out what the latest Soleilmoon or GhostBox release is. What a shame.

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