eMusic Begins Purging Major Labels in Renewed Indie Push

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Taylor Swift performs onstage during the 2014 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 19, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  

Pioneering digital music store eMusic has announced a return to its indie roots, telling members that it will no longer sell releases distributed by major labels Sony, Universal and Warner. The site, which launched in 1998 as an online outlet for independent music, but began selling product from the majors in 2009, will alter its focus as early as this week, according to an email to subscribers.

"In an effort to dedicate the brand once again to its original mission, eMusic is renewing its commitment to independent music,"  it said in a statement on Monday. "Beginning Oct. 1, 2014, the leading download-to-own music retailer will be exiting the mainstream music business and exclusively offering independent music. The company's goal is to build the most extensive catalog of independent music in the world."

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According to the New York Times, that catalog will also exclude music by indie-label artists but distributed through major label services. Those parameters appear to be pretty strict -- several releases that were on the site earlier Tuesday have since been purged. Gone is Taylor Swift's hit song "Shake It Off," via Big Machine Records, and Spoon's new album They Want My Soul, released on Loma Vista. Ryan Adams' hot-selling self-titled album, via his PAX AM label and the Universal-run Blue Note, is also no longer available for purchase.

Canceled contracts with specific indie labels can be reversed, however. An eMusic representative tells Billboard that in the future, indies with major distributors will be approached "so that eMusic can carefully curate which labels it wants to include in its catalog of indie music."

eMusic has struggled in recent years to compete with larger digital retailers including iTunes, Amazon and Google Play. Further, the rapid rise of streaming services like Spotify and Rdio, as well as radio giant Pandora, have also signaled the changing preferences of music fans in how they consume music.

In March 2013, eMusic merged with e-book distributor K-NFB Reading to form a new company called Media Arc Inc.

UPDATE (2:45 EST): This article was updated with new information from eMusic.