eMusic Launch Gives Europeans New Choices

For the launch of its music download store across Europe, eMusic.com has added tracks from hundreds of European independent labels to its collection by U.S. artists.

Europeans could previously use eMusic’s download service, which offered a selection of predominantly U.S. artists on U.S. independent labels. The new European service announced Tuesday will include the U.S. music as well as music from labels in the European Union such as Beggars Group, Edel Music, Domino Recording and Ministry of Sound.

EMusic sells digital songs only from independent labels. Unlike the number-one online music store, Apple Computer’s iTunes, eMusic sells songs in MP3 format, so users can play the songs on almost any music player.

Customers in all 25 E.U. member countries can subscribe to the service, which on the low end costs 13 euros (US$16) per month including 40 downloads. If users download the maximum number of songs, they’ll pay 0.23 per song, compared to 0.99 for an iTunes song.

The songs come without digital rights management, meaning that customers can make as many copies of the songs as they like, burn them to CDs and transfer them onto multiple portable music players. In addition, buyers can keep the songs even if they cancel their subscriptions.

By contrast, other music stores that use DRM limit the ways that buyers can copy and play the songs.

EMusic was able to launch across the European Union through a licensing deal with Buma/Stemra, a Dutch organization that has agreements with author societies in all the E.U. countries. EMusic pays royalties to Buma/Stemra for songs it sells, and Buma/Stemra settles with the organizations in each country that represent artists and collect royalties on their behalf.

EMusic has arranged a number of promotional activities to tout the new offering. SanDisk, U.K. newspaper The Guardian, Lloyds TSB Bank and Netgear are all offering free eMusic downloads to customers.

EMusic has established its E.U. headquarters in London but will host the music from servers in the Netherlands.

In the United States, eMusic says it has 11 percent share of the market for downloaded music, putting it in second place behind iTunes. In the past 36 months, eMusic has sold 85 million tracks.

EMusic is touting the launch as the first digital music download service available across all 25 E.U. countries. Some European countries have a relatively limited choice of digital music stores. ITunes operates in 17 European nations. Coca-Cola recently shut down an online music store and opened a new one, serving four countries, based on the iTunes store. Napster is available in a few countries including the United Kingdom and Germany. Various other smaller stores serve limited markets.

-Nancy Gohring, IDG News Service (Dublin Bureau)

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