eMusic has always had a slightly left of center approach to selling digital downloads. eMusic offers music consumers the opportunity to pay a monthly subscription fee for access to their song catalogs and download a certain number of songs per month – $12 bucks gets you 24 songs, $32 bucks a month allows you to download up to 73 songs a month. That’s a lot of music for a pretty good price – certainly a lot cheaper than your average iTunes song.
They used to be primarily focused on independent labels, lacking the deals to add the big four record label’s music to their catalog. But that has changed in the last couple of years and now eMusic has deals with all four. They also started selling audiobooks a few years back as well.
Now they are launching genre based Internet radio streams as well. Join the club! According to Billboard, eMusic will offer streams of music curated by eMusic’s editorial staff. There are a wide variety of offerings from punk and alt-country to electronica and “fresh jazz”. Streams are available to eMusic U.S. subscribers for free for up to ten hours of listening per month. Non-subscribers may get to try them out soon as well.
So eMusic wants to take on Pandora and Spotify? I doubt it. It sounds like eMusic – and perhaps the labels it’s partnered with as well – are noticing that streaming has a positive effect on music purchases. They’re planning to add a buy button to the player, and they certainly have the buy in of their record label partners. Though it hasn’t been quantified in a while, I’ve seen data out there that shows Pandora selling lots of songs for iTunes and Amazon to their listeners.
Music sales are up this year, bucking a several year annual decline. Led by strong digital downloads of albums and songs, music sales in the US are up 1.6% through May 8th. That’s according to Nielsen. Physical album sales continue to drop, but the rise in online sales is compensating for the first time. Digital album and track purchases went up 16.8 percent and 9.6 percent respectively.
A contributing factor in this would be the release of the Beatles catalog online which drove catalog album sales to a 5.4% increase. CD sales were down, but only 8% compared to double digit declines for several previous years. And strangely enough, Vinyl album sales were way up – 37% year over year, after growing 14% last year.
So what does all of this mean? Well, the future’s not as bad as it seems. Perhaps precipitous drops in revenue are a thing of the past for the record companies.
Amazon is growing its share of the digital music download market but not at the expense of ITunes. According to NPD Group research data, ITunes has 66% of that market and Amazon has 13%. Growth may be coming instead from album sales, which dropped by 12% for 2010, according to WSJ.com. CD sales dropped by 20%, but digital album sales grew 13%.
A few artists have decided to forego selling individual songs on ITunes and insist on album sales instead. Billboard says this formula just might be working out for Kid Rock. He’s not selling his new album “Born Free” or the songs on it on ITunes. Billboard thinks he may have sold more, by a lot, by sticking to his guns, generating an estimated $3.3 million more by only selling his album in its entirety.
AC/DC and Garth Brooks are two other artists/groups that have refused to play the single song download sales game with iTunes, opting instead to only sell albums. No word on how it is working out for them.
Meanwhile, Amazon continues to try to put a dent in ITunes share of market by offering deep discounts of albums, something that may actually endear them to artists and labels by placing emphasis on album rather than song sales. They are known to absorb the price difference between the sale price and wholesale price, so it doesn’t harm actual revenues and it helps unit sales. It’s a strategy that worked for Kid Rock…