updated 11:20 am EST, Sat November 20, 2010
eMusic changes to pay-per-track to fight iTunes
eMusic has this weekend changed its pricing model to get major labels and more directly compete with Apple's iTunes and Amazon MP3. The deal drops eMusic's distinctive bulk song credits in favor of a variable price, pay per track model that finally adds wider access to major label music, including current music from Sony and Warner as well as year-old music from Universal. Most independent music will still cost the equivalent of the base song credit plan, at 49 cents per song, but will see major label songs sell for 69 to 89 cents.
All of the catalog remains unprotected MP3 files.
The deal tries to strike a balance between the company's original philosophy and the demands by major labels to raise the effective pricing. eMusic's prices are less efficient for very frequent downloaders but still run well below pricing at most other stores. Apple, Amazon and most other US-based stores sell tracks between 69 cents and $1.29, although they have music from EMI that on Apple now includes the Beatles.
While the company has been relatively stable, its subscriber base has been virtually unchanged for a year or more at about 400,000 members. The need for a subscription, along with a limitation to independent music, has kept many users going to more expensive stores but potentially paying less since they only need to pay when they buy music.