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eMusic is an online music and audiobook store that operates by subscription. It is headquartered in New York Citymarker and owned by Dimensional Associates, LLC. As of September 2008 eMusic has over 400,000 subscribers.

eMusic was one of the first sites to sell music in the MP3 format, beginning in 1998. It differs from other well-known music download services (such as iTunes and AmazonMP3) in that it is a download-to-own subscription service.

While lauded by the general public, its early support of the MP3 format, lack of digital rights management (DRM) encoding and low price model made the service unappealing to the Big Four record labels until recently. Prior to July 2009, eMusic sold only music from independent labels in all genres, including indie rock, pop, jazz, electronica, new age, underground rap, traditional music, classical music, heavy metal, hardcore punk, and experimental music.

eMusic was the first digital retailer to sell DRM-free downloadable audiobooks in the MP3 format beginning in 2007., its largest competitor, offers audiobooks with digital rights management in the .aa format.


eMusic caters to an older audience with the average subscriber being 39 who subscribes for at least a year. eMusic has more than 6,000,000 tracks available for download and has sold over 300,000,000 tracks.. New subscribers receive 25 free downloads during their seven-day trial. The trial account turns into a billable subscription account after seven days. Refunds are possible under certain circumstances by contacting eMusic customer support. Subscriptions allow users to download a number of tracks per 30-day period. As of June 2009 a basic package allows for 24 downloads, with Plus, Premium and Connoisseur subscriptions offering more downloads per month at higher prices and lower price per download. Every 30 days the download limit is reset (regardless of how many songs were downloaded). eMusic also offers "booster packs" to subscribers, which expire after 90 days rather than after a month, and are consumed when subscribers download tracks beyond their monthly allotments. Earlier business models prior to Dimensional Associates' ownership supported an "all-you-can-eat" download subscription. For a monthly fee, customers were able to download as many tracks as they wished from the service.

In 2006, eMusic added two European versions of its online store: 'eMusic UK' and 'eMusic Europe'. Current subscribers to the global site that were within the European Union had their membership transferred to the appropriate European store. eMusic UK and eMusic Europe have higher prices compared to their North American counterpart, partially due to the extra sales taxes which these stores are now subject to. However, the changeover also included access to labels previously unavailable to non-European customers, notably London-based Domino Records and artists such as The White Stripes and Mogwai. It is also notable that the European version of the store is for customers within the European Union, not customers within Europe.

eMusic launched a Canadian version of its store in 2008.


Due to the contentious nature of DRM encoding that was initially used by competing download services, eMusic won early praise for not including any in their own files, despite the fact that it cost them contracts with the major record labels. eMusic openly stated that this was a business move that has greatly aided the site's popularity.

eMusic stores a record of user purchases on its internal servers, but does not place any purchaser information inside the tracks that are sold. The service uses the LAME mp3 encoder to produce variable bit rate MP3 files. Analysis on the files show that the preset used is alt-preset-standard, a high quality VBR preset aiming at an average bit rate around 192kbit/s. However, and contrary to the information published on the web site , files can be found in a much lower quality, including for recent releases, with no warning prior to actually downloading the file.


Most of eMusic's contracts are with independent labels, giving the service a reputation for primarily offering indie rock, indie pop, heavy metal, punk rock, jazz and classical music. eMusic highlights its offerings through a host of exclusive editorial content, along the lines of monthly "editor's picks", columns and guides. The company also cites statistics from the American Association of Independent Music that independents' market share of CD sales is 28%.

With the "big four" record labels (Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, EMI and Warner Music Group) unwilling to do business with the site, many popular artists are either unrepresented or have very few releases available. This is more of a problem in the genres of Top 40 rock and rap music, and less so in genres such as jazz, where major artists spread their output across multiple, smaller labels. This allows the site to feature some acclaimed recordings by artists such as Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. The site also carries the complete classical catalog of Naxos Records.

The site's alternative (or "indie") rock selection has also been aided by the rise in widely-distributed but privately owned "minor" labels, such as Kill Rock Stars and Matador Records, who have a fair amount of big-name talent on their rolls (e.g. Cat Power, The Decemberists, Interpol and Sleater-Kinney, who have been among eMusic's top-sellers). Music from other popular indie labels includes Merge Records (Spoon, Arcade Fire, Lambchop), K Records (Modest Mouse, Built to Spill), Touch and Go Records (Mekons, Girls Against Boys), and TVT Records (Lil Jon, Ying Yang Twins, Guided By Voices).

In 1999, eMusic made headlines by releasing one of the first internet-only albums by a major artist: Long Tall Weekend by They Might Be Giants. The band would also go on to release a series of monthly, exclusive rarities collections (known as "TMBG Unlimited") through the service in 2001 and 2002.. John Flansburgh said that "Getting a half dozen or dozen unreleased songs out each month provides an ‘ultimate fan club’ experience."

In 2004, with the change from an unlimited download subscription model to a set-track subscription download, eMusic significantly increased their catalogue content over the next few years, particularly in the Indian Soundtrack and Indian Classical genres and in the Classical music genre adding labels like Saregama, Naxos, BIS, Chandos, Harmonia Mundi, Telarc and many others.

In June 2006, eMusic added new music from V2 Records in the U.S. The label is one of eMusic's highest-profile additions thus far, with multiplatinum acts Moby and The White Stripes, along with critical favorites such as Grandaddy. However, this music is not available to eMusic users in many other countries. [While Moby is still available at present, the White Stripes catalog has long since been removed from the emusic site in North America.]

In June 2007, eMusic added perhaps its biggest star yet to its lineup: Paul McCartney of The Beatles. His album, Memory Almost Full, is also the first release on Starbucks' Hear Music label.

The eMusicLive Venue Network is 22 independent clubs in the US where live shows are recorded and offered to eMusic subscribers. Numerous shows are recorded every week. In addition to subscription sales, recorded CDs are offered for sale at the venue immediately after the event. EMusic plans to establish kiosks where the music can be delivered directly to MP3 players or flash drives.

Beginning September 18, 2007, eMusic began offering audiobooks in MP3 format.

On April 2, 2008, eMusic added The Rolling Stones when they were on their ABKCO label. This includes their music from 1964-1970, plus any compilations made thereafter by ABKCO. The availability of The Rolling Stones' catalog ended on May 3, 2008.

On June 1, 2009, eMusic struck a deal with Sony Music Entertainment to sell music released two years ago or earlier.

Incarnations and ownership

The original eMusic was started in March 1995 by Mark Chasan as the fourth online CD retailer. eMusic and Nordic Music (owned by Kent Kiefer) formed a joint venture in February 1998 to become the first digital media retailer and sold the first MP3 players on the internet. eMusic, then headed by Chasan and Kiefer, purchased Guy Giuliano's internet radio service GBS Radio Networks. The new consortium launched the first online radio network LoudRadio, to broadcast over a terrestrial radio station via KLOD-FM in Flagstaff, Arizonamarker.

The company now known as eMusic was founded by Gene Hoffman and Bob Kohn on January 8, 1998 and originally named GoodNoise Corporation. In October 1998, GoodNoise acquired along with on-line music pioneer Internet Underground Music Archive (IUMA). In November 1999, eMusic acquired main rival Cductive and in December 1999 acquired, which operated and Then in 2001, the major label Universal Music (then a division of Vivendi Universal) bought for USD 24.6 million.

In November 2003, the service was purchased from VU Net USA by a New York-based private equity arm of JDS Capital Management, Inc. Following a contentious period during which information disseminated by the company was limited , it was relaunched in 2004. Relaunch was soon followed by a new format for the eMusic site, significant increase in both editorial and music content and an eventual price increase for most subscription levels.


  1. eMusic About Us
  3. Classical Music News from NAXOS.COM

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