Universal Music Group has licensed its catalog to eMusic, making it the third major record label available at the store. The addition of 250,000 UMG tracks will be available in November for U.S. subscribers only.

Concurrent with the addition of UMG catalog will be a new currency pricing structure across all territories. Gone are the track credits that have long been the store’s standard. The majority of albums will be priced from $5.19 to $8.99. Single track prices will range from $0.49 for most catalog tracks to $0.89 for “tracks that generally sell for $1.29 at iTunes.”

The old method of pricing, eMusic explains in an explanatory post at its site, just wasn’t working. “In order to continue to grow our catalog and to insure a sustainable business in the long term, we need more flexible pricing.” Existing subscribers will be migrated to the new pricing plans and given a “loyalty bonus” based on tenure and the type of plan. Those loyalty bonuses will not be available to customers who sign up after the launch of the new pricing system.

For example, a $14.99-per-month eMusic Plus subscription that used to get 37 credits will get $14.99 worth of songs. Existing subscribers will be given a loyalty bonus on top of their plan. So, a long-time subscriber could get an extra $2.00 on a $14.99 plan for a total monthly allotment of $16.99.

Although the deal does not include frontline titles, an eMusic spokesperson tells Billboard the company plans on getting its first delivery of major label frontline releases before Christmas. If UMG follows the practices of the other two majors at eMusic – Sony Music and Warner Music Group – it will release to the store the occasional developing artist or artist who fits well with eMusic’s indie-leaning clientele. For example, WMG’s new release by Linkin Park and Sony’s new album by John Legend and the Roots are currently available at eMusic, as are new releases by Jenny and Johnny (Warner Bros) and Broken Bells (Columbia).

Some eMusic subscribers are not taking the news well. Twitter comments have been relatively light so far but most negative. Reaction to the news at the eMusic Message Board has been mostly neutral to negative. Some subscribers say they take a wait-and-see approach. Many others have claimed they will leave the service out of frustration – but we’ve heard this before.

The addition of Sony Music catalog in June 2009 also coincided an eMusic’s pricing change. This caused a minor uproar among subscribers. Then-CEO Danny Stein called the price change “inevitable, with or without Sony.”

To the customer, the price change brings a helpful change in how eMusic accounts for breakage, the amount of credit unused at the end of the month. If a subscribers’ balance is less than the price of a single download, that amount will carry over to the following month (that rule does no apply to annual memberships, booster plans or other special credits).

Currently, unused credit does not roll over at eMusic. In the current pricing structure, it is easy to use up one’s credit. If you have five credits at the end of the month, you can look up releases with five tracks (some might have long tracks and carry a full album cost, but many will cost just five credits) or download five individual tracks from a variety of releases.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

Print