Saturday, March 14, 2009

Why I subscribed to eMusic and why I eventually cancelled my subscription

I used to buy a lot of CDs, but I disliked having to cart them around every time I moved. To break my habit of poring over the racks at used CD stores, I subscribed to eMusic. There were a lot of tracks that I wanted from the band They Might Be Giants on there, so I took the plunge and swore off the poring. And it was great. I got a very high bang-for-my-buck initially as I first tracked down types of music I liked and plunged deeper into them and then later kept finding new things that I enjoyed. But after the first year, it became more of a chore to search through the music, trying to find something I wanted. One can easily download lots of stuff and wind up deleting it all - if one is a scrutinizing stickler. But I enjoyed the scrutinizing, as I saw eMusic as a good way to cheaply search for amazing new music.

Eventually, I realized that I had just switched from poring over racks of CDs to poring over pages of mp3s. And after a couple of years I was definitely getting diminishing returns. I wasn't always downloading my full 40 tracks before they disappeared at the end of the billing period.

The breaking point came when eMusic announced that they were changing the rates for existing users. For the $10/month subscription, it was going from something like 25 cents per track to 33 cents. I sorted through my iTunes library to determine what my good finds were for the previous year. I figure that there were only about three CDs that I thought were good downloads and three individual tracks. And in terms of actually finding new things, eMusic accounted for less than a third of the year's finds. (I was finding more completely new stuff came through This was no longer worth $120 per year. The final change that really made this decision possible was Amazon's entering the DRM-free mp3 market. That had been eMusic's second-most appealing feature (after price) back when the options were the iTunes Music Store or buying CDs.

I do think that there was a period of about a year and a half where my eMusic subscription was worth what I was paying for it, but whether it was that I could no longer find the tracks that would have appealed to me, or that eMusic has just run out of things I wanted to listen to, the time had come to switch.

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