eMusic Sells Out to Major Record Labels

​We're an honest bunch at Crossfade and we do not condone illegally downloading music. It's understood that musicians -- like writers -- struggle financially, and supporting independent music by purchasing records or attending shows is the ultimate display of artistic camaraderie.

Face it: Dropping $0.99 to download a digital track from the iTunes store is a lot of money, as is $9.99 per album. It may sound like a good deal, but it's not. And we only know six people that have ever used Amazon for music. We've always preferred eMusic, the Internet's answer to a struggling indie record shop.

Historically, the selection has always been relatively scarce in comparison to iTunes. Nevertheless, 400,000 people subscribe to the site and enjoy independent music from every genre imaginable.

Last week, however, the subscription service announced it would transform their traditional credit-based platform into a currency-based system like iTunes. The reason: a new licensing agreement with Universal Music Group that'll add 250,000 tracks to the site.

"In order to continue to grow our catalog and to insure a sustainable business in the long term, we need more flexible pricing," eMusic explains in an online post.

An explanation for the new pricing system on the site claims savings of 20 to 50 percent compared to iTunes. Album prices will generally range between $5.19 and $8.99, while single tracks are expected to fall between $0.49 and $0.89, depending on popularity. Titles from Def Jam, Geffen and Interscope labels, among others, will be available starting in November and longtime subscription holders will automatically be "grandfathered" into preferred plans not available to new members.

Nevertheless, veteran eMusic subscribers are skeptical. Currently, a "Plus" plan runs $15.89 per month and includes 35 credits. That's about $0.45 a track, or four cents cheaper than the $0.49 base model the site will switch to in November.

Part of eMusic's appeal has always been its reward incentives. The online music store acknowledges loyal subscribers with bonus credits and referral comps, but switching to a currency-based system will likely affect the program.

As for us, we're scrambling to find new artists to spend our remaining credits on before November 1. We ball on a strict budget at Crossfade and eMusic's new system won't fit into the equation.

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