eMusic: Excluding Apple from their New App

by Kira Grunenberg

I was intrigued to hear about the launch of eMusic‘s new mobile app and surprised by the exclusion of Apple. Not what you’d expect but it’s interesting to hear why this is the case, given the prevalence of mobile apps and mobile service access.

A little background though, if you’re not familiar with eMusic:

“[eMusic] started in 1998, as one of the first ever mp3-download sites. Today, eMusic based in New York City with a London office [and] has members in over 30 countries throughout North America and Europe. Our influence may spread wide, but our goal is still singular: to be a reliable place for you to discover the best new music.”

One of the initial differentiators of eMusic’s business model, which brought risk, is their use of DRM-free mp3s. The rise in action to increase copyright protection and penalization made them a radical. However, eMusic’s web service appeals to multiple OSs, (Mac, PC and Linux) and currently holds a global Alexa rank of 7,904. (out of 16 million sites)

eMusic’s library of content is a notable 13 million+ tracks of music, with their site quoting “most [tracks] being around $0.49 each, or half the price of other sites.” (erhm, iTunes Store) Furthermore, when eMusic says they are a download site, they mean it.

“eMusic carries high quality MP3 downloads that work on any digital media player, including iPod and Zune. You OWN your music without any restrictions…”

This stands opposite to the still limited policies of the iTunes Store with regard to burning playlists and authorizing/syncing devices for backups.

The last major distinguishing factor for eMusic is their emphasis on music discovery (not just a Genius-type vehicle.) Combining feature pieces, staff reviews, regular blogging and a radio element, eMusic creates community around supplying files.

With the mobile app, these business and consumer practices work with the strategy of gaining new subscribers via existing and non-subscriber accessibility – a method which CEO Adam Klein describes at Billboard.biz as, “a bit of a freemium business model: in theory, non-subscribers who use the app will have greater incentive to become a subscriber.” Klein builds on this objective by explaining that to go with iOS access from the start would hinder potential for new users.

“We find that the iOS world [with Apple's 30% revenue cut] makes it relatively unattractive economically if you’re going to be generating new membership and things like that,”

The added under-tapped Android market leaves eMusic a chance to become the ‘iTunes of Droid devices.’ By interconnecting recommendation and continuous browsing (via reading reviews and radio surfing) with fluid information bookmarking and download features, this is more than a “just go to it when I need specific things” app.

It does lack interconnectedness in some areas – no link to purchase at the end of a review, for example. This kind ‘deficiency’ comes down to ‘one-click gratification.’ Realistically though, if you’re continually using the app for reading up on artists and discovery rather than just quick a buy-and-run, then this shouldn’t irritate users too severely and can always be adjusted in future upgrades.

eMusic indicates plans for Canada, Europe and iOS releases but Klein alludes to no specific date for any of these as of yet. The eMusic Android mobile app can be downloaded via Google Play.

Kira is an old school music nerd with a love for all things creative; always searching for music’s common ground. She graduated with an M.A. in Performing Arts Administration from New York University. Drop her a tweet @shadowmelody1