What is eMusic?:
eMusic refers to itself as the internet's "corner music store". Although the site is now a major digital distribution channel for indie labels, it originally started as an online CD shop back in 1995, when www.emusic.com was launched.
eMusic has worked hard to position themselves as the site for "real" music lovers, and in addition to their mp3 and audio book offerings, they have lots of band bio info, user generated and staff picked music recommendation playlists and features with musicians.
Digital Record Store Clerk:
An eMusic selling point for most customers is the editorial content on the site. Rather than just offering the basics, the background info on bands, labels and music scenes is extensive and well researched. Furthering the corner store feel, the music info provided on the site is meant to be the stand-in for your favorite, know-it-all record store clerk.
The eMusic Dozen is another popular site feature. The team at eMusic compiles and promotes the 12 best albums in a particular genre (as decided by them, of course). These lists are a good way for fans to explore a new style of music.
Where Music Fans Go?:
According to eMusic's website, their site may attract more dedicated music fans than other music retailers. On average, individual eMusic users buy over 20 tracks per month, which is higher than other music sites. There is also a high level of user interaction on the site, with music fans swapping tips with their fellow users.
Subscription Based Service:
eMusic works on a subscription format. Users pay a monthly fee for a pre-set number of tracks. Memberships can be cancelled at any time, and they can also be put on hold for up to 90 days, if money is a little tight for a brief period.
How to Get eMusic Distribution:
eMusic only works directly with labels that have 150+ releases, and even then, they exercise quality control discretion. Everyone else must reach eMusic via a digital music aggregator.
Indie Music's Ex-Best Friend?:
Since it's inception, eMusic has been the top online destination for indie music. It's "corner record store" mentality is partly derived from being the only store online to find lots of indie labels, much like your favorite indie record shop stocks all of the stuff you can't get at mall music stores. They have often used their dedication to indie music as a selling point. They were the acceptable alternative to the online equivalent of chain music stores.
For these reasons, eMusic experienced a backlash in 2009, when they announced they had signed a deal with Sony. Although some of the uproar was from people who wanted eMusic to remain fervently indie, much of the problem came from the fact that a price increase to customers came along with the Sony deal.
To date, the Sony catalog is only available to US users starting July, 2009.