February 14, 2013 at 7:59 pm

EMusic Drops Subscription Requirement, Sells MP3s

eMusic now sells MP3s one-by-one, as well as in discounted monthly batches.

In what its publicist calls ” eMusic’s biggest strategic shift since 2005,” the longtime indie-oriented music subscription service is now also music download store.

EMusic is the only major music subscription that offers MP3s that you can download and play in whatever software you want (even in apps like this, which can’t handle Spotify-style subscriptions). That’s not changing, and nor is eMusic’s “independent” editorial wing, which curates and describes the music available there.

What is changing: You’ll be able to buy individual MP3s on eMusic now, for the first time — the same way you can on Amazon. (Apple’s iTunes sells AAC files with an M4A extension.)

We noticed that some of the music on there isn’t yet available for individual purchase, but an eMusic spokeswoman assured us that they the vast majority of its catalog is available under the new a la carte plan, and that the rest is coming soon.

“More than 96 percent of the content eMusic sold in Q4 2012 is available to everyone,” said eMusic spokeswoman April White. “The remaining (less than three percent of) content that is only available to members at this time is owned by indie labels from whom we are either waiting to hear back or waiting to receive their signed contracts. We will eventually have 100 percent of our catalog available to everyone.”

For music fans looking for another place to buy songs, this is a positive development, and contributes to the diversity of the digital music ecosystem. EMusic hopes it will lead to business deals with everything from cable television companies to brick-and-mortar stores — we assume because they didn’t want to offer private-labeled version of the subscription version of eMusic, and that they might do so for the download version.

“A number of major players have already taken interest in eMusic’s new business model, which is making the brand more flexible and easier to partner with than ever before,” said eMusic CEO Adam Klein in a statement. “We are in talks with potential partners in the OEM market, and also with wireless and cable operators, as well as big box retailers.”

EMusic brands itself as a little more “artisinal,” one might put it, than the more mainstream stores. Every company has to market itself somehow, but eMusic’s marketing isn’t too far off. Have Apple or Amazon put together a free iPad app that can walk you through the Berlin techno scene or Brazilian pop? Nope.