eMusic, or “the indie iTunes” as Rolling Stone called the digital music service in 2006, is about to go a little more mainstream: the service has struck a deal to add Sony Music’s massive back catalog to its roster. The service, long-regarded as the subscription-based hub for music fans interested into DRM-free independent releases, will add the Sony labels Arista, Columbia, Epic, Jive, LaFace, Legacy Recordings and RCA, bringing with them artists like Bruce Springsteen, the Clash, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, OutKast and thousands more. The Sony tracks will be integrated into the service in the third quarter of 2009, according to a press release.
Under the terms of the agreement, eMusic will be allowed to sell MP3s of the Sony catalog that are two years old or older, meaning new releases still won’t be available. Still, Top 40 tracks aren’t the service’s bread and butter, as eMusic has gained a following for being the destination of music seekers 25 and older thanks to its deep independent catalog and its low-cost, listener-friendly subscription model. According to the New York Times, eMusic currently boasts 400,000 subscribers. The Times reports that eMusic will slightly raise prices on some of its monthly download plans, something indie labels have been asking them to do, according to chief executive Danny Stein. Stein added that eMusic is still in talks with EMI, Universal and Warner Music.
eMusic, which was one of the first MP3-sales sites when it launched in 1998, has carved a niche selling indie music and artists, but the addition of Sony Music’s catalog will help the service keep pace with both iTunes (who recently ditched the DRM files and created a price tier) and the Amazon MP3 Store.