There’s an article in USA Today about eMusic and its recent successes (online via Yahoo! News). In general the main pitch is that eMusic is great and yay for DRM-free music. Yay indeed (and yes, I love me the eMusic), but I’m not completely sold on the article’s explanation for why eMusic can do it and no one else can. According to USA Today, eMusic is able to go DRM free because its supplying labels believe “eMusic users tend to be older, sophisticated music fans who are less likely to engage in online song-swapping”; this view is supported by Gene Rumsey of Concord Music Group, who reckons that the “rabid” music fans that eMusic attracts are much less likely to fileshare than the typical iTunes user.
I’m not sure I buy this line. I don’t fileshare myself, but I’m familiar online with plenty of people who do. What’s more, they tend to be from the “older, sophisticated” pool of music fans that eMusic targets itself at. In fact, I’d argue that “rabid” music fans are just as likely to turn to p2p sites, mp3 blogs, and other black/grey sources for their music as anyone else – not least because a condition of being both rabid and a music fan is that you frequently run up against the border of what the mainstream corporate music wants you to spend your money on. What makes the difference is that we also don’t appreciate being mugged, or taken for criminals. eMusic does neither of these things, and respect breeds respect. What’s more, for the price of a couple of drinks I get from eMusic as much music as I can properly absorb in a month, which helps to keep the cravings down.
There are still plenty of things that we still want to hear – the out of print, the otherwise unavailble – but we’re only going to get these things from record fairs and second hand shops, so none of our money is going to the artists or corps anyway; why not download that when you can (and you don’t hear Music and Video Exchange worrying that file-sharing is killing their business)? But the mention of eMusic’s pitch to the majors to promote and sell out-of-print music through the site is exciting; finally a way for us to get the music we’ve gotta hear, and a way for artists and recording companies to continue making royalties on music they don’t even have to promote. Are the majors listening? “The proposal has been accepted at all the major labels by lower-level digital executives, but gets stuck when it goes up to the executive suite.” Are they hell.