Emusic UK pricing: Operator, get me the President of the world!

As I mentioned in the last post, online music retailer eMusic has launched a UK version of their site. Emusic is interesting because it sells MP3 files without onerous DRM restrictions. You can therefore use the files on any portable MP3 player, and copy and burn them as you see fit; it’s also accessible through the web, not a special app like the iTunes Music Store, which makes it more flexible. Ars.Technica ran a decent article charting the rise of Emusic earlier this year. However, as some peopehave noticed, the introduction of Emusic UK means prices have gone up:

The charges on the US site are as follows:

  • eMusic Basic: $9.99 per month/40 downloads – that’s $.25 a song
  • eMusic Plus: $14.99 per month/65 downloads – that’s $.23 a song
  • eMusic Premium: $19.99 per month/90 downloads – that’s $.22 a song (best

And the UK site charges:

  • eMusic Basic: £8.99 per month/40 downloads – that’s 22p a song
  • eMusic Plus: £11.99 per month/65 downloads – that’s 18p a song
  • eMusic Premium: £14.99 per month/90 downloads – that’s 17p a song (best

A quick conversion at Xe.com/ucc shows that $8.99 is £4.75, a fair bit less than the UK is charged. Emusic’s email to me this morning blamed the price rise on VAT, but even if you add 17.5% to either of these amounts, it’s clear the new UK prices still represent a big increase, as Emusic subscribers have noted on the message boards.

However, it’s fair to say that one reason the US price seems so low is Dubya’s stirling work with the US economy and the natural dollar-discount people paying with pounds get; it’s also probable that Emusic is paying higher fees to sort out licensing in the UK – the UK version of the site adds a lot of tracks that weren’t available to UK users before, like the White Stripes, Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys – far bigger names than many on Emusic. Then of course, there’s the fact Emusic probably want to make some more money 🙂 This is not the first time Emusic has changed its service and come in for criticism – the used to have an unlimited downloads plan, as Boing Boing notes.

As an existing subscriber, I get a special VAT-free rate if I continue my sub, which is nice, although it will still cost more as I will be charged in £s not $s. I’m not quite sure exactly what this amount will be, as the email doesn’t mention it, so nil-points for communication there Emusic, as we say in Eurovision.

So for new subscribers, is it good value? Well, a new CD will generally cost £10 or more from the high street, a bit less from Amazon, and an album from iTunes will cost you £7.99, so in that way, £8.99 a month for 40 downloads is a pretty good deal… And Overall? Well, for me, the addition of some more mainstream acts like the Arctic Monkeys makes the service better, and the promise of getting rid of the ‘not available in your region’ notice has got to be good (although it’s not totally sorted – there’s no Arcade Fire EP, for instance, in the UK Emusic). Emusic didn’t communicate the change to EmUK too well, but it’s still decent value, and there’s still no DRM, which is more than you can say for most other online music stores.

(The post title comes from the first song on the Tokyo Police Club’s excellent A Lesson In Crime EP, the last thing I downloaded from Emusic. Very good it is too. Like the Strokes but more committed and interesting, and rockier and more fun than Bloc Party.)

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