eMusic launches digital token
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eMusic led the way with MP3 downloads. Can it do the same on blockchain?

The 22-year-old music company has launched digital tokens so artists are fairly compensated when songs are bought… but there are a few drawbacks

eMusic was one of the first companies to bring song downloads to the internet—now, it’s attempting to be a trendsetter once again by embracing blockchain.

It has launched a new digital token designed to ensure artists keep a larger chunk of the revenues generated whenever tracks or albums are sold. This could be music to the ears of performers who have long been disgruntled by the hefty commission fees levied by the likes of iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

Tamir Koch believes eMusic can revolutionize music. Again. (Photo: Twitter)

“Streaming has dramatically increased revenues and adoption, but the model has proven itself to be fundamentally flawed,” said Tamir Koch, president of eMusic, in a statement. “Hard-up artists receive a fraction of the royalties, while intermediaries take an ever-growing slice of the pie.”

The new eMU token’s goal, he added, is “to reinvent music distribution. It creates a brand-new commercial model built on fair compensation and transparent flow of funds between fans, artists and music services.”

Aside from the financial benefits, the eMU token is also promising to give musicians an insight into how their creations are being consumed—as well as who is listening to them most.

This is the second try for eMusic, which planned to launch an eMU token in July 2018, with a $70 million token pre-sale scheduled for that September. 

eMU has now been listed on the Bibox crypto exchange, and it is already being accepted for use across eMusic’s established platforms.

Falling flat

Although eMusic president Tamir Koch said music streaming has helped to revitalize a struggling industry—dramatically increasing revenues—he warned the current model remains “fundamentally flawed.”

Championing eMusic’s focus of delivering fair compensation, he added: “Hard-up artists receive a fraction of the royalties, while intermediaries take an ever-growing slice of the pie and leading services remain loss-making.”

Which is basically the problem other blockchain-based streaming content platforms, such as Tron-owned video platform DLive, say they are trying to fix.

The token is also vying to hit the right notes with listeners. eMU tokens are being sold at a base price of $0.39—and users are being given a guarantee that each of these tokens will purchase at least one song on the eMusic store. Although this offers a handsome saving on the $0.99 that’s often charged by the likes of iTunes and Amazon Music, its library of tracks, sadly, is nowhere near as extensive.

eMU is an Ethereum-based ERC-20 token that can be purchased and traded in exchange for tether (USDT), a stablecoin that is pegged to the dollar. Given the fact that eMusic’s headquarters is in New York City, one potentially fatal flaw in the new innovation could lie in that the token cannot be bought or used by people in the U.S.

Nonetheless, Bibox managing director Guojie Liu has been singing the company’s praises: “eMusic pioneered the concept of digital music and was among the very first music subscription services. When they say that blockchain is the future, the music industry should take note.”

A trailblazer, or too late?

It’s fair to say that eMusic is a shadow of its former self. Despite launching in January 1998—a full three years before iTunes first came on to the scene—it has struggled to regain the public profile that it enjoyed in the early years.

It also had an eight-year head start on the Swedish streaming behemoth Spotify, which has made light work of running rings around eMusic. Spotify offers a free service that’s supported by ads, and a subscription unlocking access to 35 million songs—including top-tier artists—can cost as little as $9.99 a month. Many of eMusic’s membership plans are far more expensive than this. Although songs can be downloaded to keep forever, its library is niche, meaning those who were hoping to listen to the latest Coldplay and Taylor Swift tracks will be bitterly disappointed. Which isn’t to say no big names are available—Rihanna and Beyoncé fans, take note.

There are some other perks that could help eMusic token holders see past this. Those who buy the tokens will be able to get an additional 20% off any track or album, and unlock exclusive events and material from selected artists.

eMusic has been ahead of the curve before. The question now is whether the likes of Apple or Spotify will end up launching their own blockchain-based offerings in the year to come—and whether eMusic would be able to retain the market lead if they did.

C Sephton is a journalist with an interest in cryptocurrencies, personal finance, and financial inclusion—as well as the challenges the crypto industry faces in achieving mainstream adoption. He owns cryptocurrencies.