How eMusic rips everyone off for 1.4% but actually more

First, despite my complaining about their still-broken login page, I really do like eMusic. They’ve got a ton of stuff that I can’t find normally, and they way in front, selling DRM-free MP3s long before the big guys. But they really are acting badly here, and I want to call them out.

Here’s how this works: you sign up for a monthly plan.

Monthly, of course, means “calendar month” right? If I say “once a month” you know what that means. If I set up a monthly reminder — for something like, say, downloading my eMusic quota — that means once a month on, say, the 5th, I get a note to go make sure I get my music.

If you surveyed 100 people about what monthly means, all 100 would say a calendar month.

Not at eMusic

Q: How does the eMusic subscription work?
A: Our subscription program is simple. For each 30 day period you receive a fixed number of downloads for one low price. Every 30 days your account is refreshed with the appropriate number of downloads. Downloads do not rollover from one period to the next.

30-day period. That’s… odd. Can that be right? It is:

Q: When will my downloads refresh?
A: Your downloads refresh every thirty days at the same time of day that you signed up. This means that your downloads may refresh on a different day each month. To find out when your downloads will refresh go to the Your Account page and look in the Download Summary area.

What happens here is that… say your subscription starts on Jan 1. You’ve got 30 days. Jan 31, your next period starts…. and expires in March. Through the course of the year, it’ll slip back and forth a little, and there’s no notification that your account’s refreshed its quota or that your downloads are about to expire.

eMusic profits in two ways: first and most obviously, instead of 12 monthly fees, they get thirteen in on a calendar year: 12 and the fractional. Or you can say they’re charging you overall for 5 days they shouldn’t — which amounts to a 1.4% hidden charge from the expectation they set in the signup and plan material and the actual implementation.

But moreover, by varying the dates, they get to catch late customers, like me, flat-footed and get a month of revenue where I don’t download anything because I logged in on the 5th to find out my 30d expired the month before. That’s 100% profit and one frustrated customer. That’s crazy! I wonder how many free months they manage to net over a year that way — it’s got to be substantial.

The obvious fix there is to either set up a recurring 30-day reminder, which is annoying and counter to the definition of the plan, or to make sure I check during the middle of the cycle, every cycle, to make sure the date variation doesn’t change up on me.

More than that, though, I’m really disappointed in them. Wasn’t there anyone there who said “hey, we’re setting customers up for frustration and confusion, we should really simplify this one way or the other” or “doesn’t monthly mean something different here?” It’s the revelation of a sudden disconnect between my like for eMusic, with editors I read and all the bands I like, and eMusic the business, which lifted a twenty off me because it could. That sucks.

2 thoughts on “How eMusic rips everyone off for 1.4% but actually more

  1. Conor Glassey

    Another solution would be to have unused songs rollover to the next 30-day period. Of course then rates would probably go up, as $11.99 for 30 songs is a screamin’ deal compared to iTunes. They’re obviously banking on people not using all their songs (and apparently using shady methods to try and ensure that’s the case).

  2. Jeremy Wright

    I dislike eMusic’s 30-day and no reminder policy as well. But for the record this isn’t a 1.4% over-charge as you claim, for the simple reason that you’re subscribing for credits (or, now, monetary credit) and not a service. You get the same amount of credit for the same price in 360 days that you would have gotten in 365.

    The couple of times I’ve lost a month’s worth of credit (over the 4 years I’ve been subscribed), I emailed them and politely asked for the credit back and they did so, as a “courtesy” they said, and I suppose it was. And since they refuse to have an email reminder system, I have a Google calendar reminder, which neatly lets you choose “Every 30 days” as a repeat option. Anyways, that’s my setup and I hope it helps someone.

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