Loses Keeps A Fan
Those of that have been reading this blog the last few months know what a fan I have been of Emusic.com. Emusic.com is a subscription based music download service that offers DRM free downloads from small music labels. I’ve used this space on several occasions to sing the services praises.
I take it all back. While I have enjoyed the service for the most part, I find the customer service to be non-existent. Almost two months ago, I upgraded from a basic, month-to-month subscription to the annual “premium” level subscription that was supposed to come with a free 1 GB MP3 player. At the time of my upgrade, I was informed that the MP3 player would be shipped within 30 days.
That was back on September 17th.
Nearly two months later, I have yet to see an MP3 player and, more importantly, I have yet to hear from anyone regarding the three separate inquiries I’ve made through the company’s “customer service” pages. If someone had taken 60 seconds to respond to even one of my emails letting me know when I could expect my MP3 player, I’d have been content to wait. Since the company has seen fit to ignore all three of my increasingly pleading emails, I have asked Emusic to cancel my subscription and refund my subscription fee minus two months of worth of downloads.
My theory is that Emusic is struggling with cash flows. The music download business has notoriously thin profit margins and even Apple, which charges $.99 cents per track, struggles to make it pay. Mostly Apple uses iTunes as a way to sell more iPods. Because Emusic is a subscription service, they make about $.25 cents per track at the lowest subscription level and about $.22 cents per track at the highest. I’m guessing a good part of that goes to the music labels and artists as well.
Emusic is addressing that by reducing the number of tracks you can download with each subscription plan. The premium package used to get you 90 downloads per month. As of this month, that has been reduced to 75 tracks per month. Lower level packages have had their number of downloads reduced in similar fashion. The mid-level package used to get you 65 downloads. Now it will get you 50. The lowest-level package has dropped from 40 to 30 downloads. That will boost the price per track to something between $.27 and $.33 cents.
I’m guessing they simply can’t afford to fulfill their promise of delivering a $79 dollar MP3 player to every person that signs up for the annual service. They certainly don’t seem to be able to afford to pay anyone to man the customer service desk.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Emusic either fold or be bought out in the coming months. Even though Emusic is the second largest music download service behind Apple’s iTunes, it’s profits have to be either razor thin or non-existent. If you’re thinking about subscribing to Emusic, my advice is to either wait or join on a month-to-month basis. That will keep you from losing any money if Emusic does indeed go belly up.
In the meantime, I’m going to cancel my subscription and try to get my money back. I can only hope that someone is paying attention to that request. I’ll also be looking for a new place to get my music. Pandora will have to tide me over until I can find a good used CD shop in Atlanta.
Update: Well, that didn’t take long. I just received the email below from the Emusic.com customer service desk.
I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience you have experienced. The players are usually shipped after 30 days, so you would receive it within 6-8 weeks of you ordering the annual subscription. I’ve been trying to determine the status of your order; unfortunately, we seem to be having trouble with the vendor shipping the players out. I want to assist you with this and provide what we have promised you, so tomorrow I will be shipping your player priority mail, so you should receive it by Monday. As an additional courtesy to you, due to the frustration you may have experienced due to this issue, I have credited your account with 25 courtesy downloads. They will remain on your account for one year from today’s date provided you maintain an active account with us.
One single communication was all I asked. Now that I’ve gotten it, even though I had to be ugly, I’ll give Emusic another chance.
Update 2: Because I’m devious and generally indignant at what I perceive to be poor service, I also guessed at Emusic.com CEO David Pakman’s email address and sent him an email regarding my poor experience. I included the link to this post. To his and Emusic’s credit, he responded quickly. His response is below.
Thank you for contacting me. I have the customer service team looking
into your issue now and we will respond to you within the next 24 hours.
I apologize on behalf eMusic for anything below your expectations and
will work to resolve your issues quickly.
I’m satisfied. Plus now I feel a little guilty about the blog post.