Pioneering digital music store eMusic is returning to its roots. The site, whose music subscription service predates peer-to-peer file sharing service Napster, recently announced plans to exit the mainstream music business and once again only carry tunes from independent artists.
News of the decision was first reported by The New York Times after the company sent a letter to subscribers over the weekend announcing the changes. eMusic has since confirmed they will no longer carry music from Sony, Universal and Warner starting October 1, 2014.
Change is commonplace at eMusic as the site has modified its business model multiple times since it was established in 1998. The company initially offered plans that allowed subscribers to download DRM-free music for as little as $0.25 per song.
But once Apple dropped copy protection from iTunes in 2009, eMusic raised prices and started offering tracks from major record labels. A year later, three of the largest independent labels pulled their catalogs from eMusic over disputes regarding new contractual terms.
One of those three labels – Domino – eventually returned although music from Beggars Group and Merge remains unavailable to this day.
eMusic last reported its subscriber count – around 400,000 – back in 2011, a figure that had held steady for several years. Music executives are likely accurate in their belief that the number of paying customers has decreased since then as eMusic has faced a new wave of competition in the form of streaming music providers.
Looking forward, eMusic said they aim to build the most extensive catalog of independent music in the world.