The New York Times reports that eMusic has signed a deal with AT&T to sell ‘over-the-air’ music downloads to the telco’s millions of mobile phone users. eMusic is the second largest provider of paid-for music downloads (iTunes is number one) and specializes in selling tracks from independent record labels, DRM-free. The company also pioneered a subscription-based service where users pay a monthly fee which entitles them to a certain number of downloads, which they then get to keep, even if they cancel their subscription.
Under the deal, AT&T mobile customers will be able to purchase tracks as a bundle, starting at $7.49 for five tracks, which is significantly more expensive than the regular version of eMusic’s service, whereby users get 30 tracks for a monthly fee of $9.99. The increase in price is being justified based on the additional cost of sending tracks directly to a user’s mobile phone, as apposed to “side-loading” via a PC.
Of note, eMusic’s mobile-version of its service won’t be available to AT&T’s iPhone customers, so it doesn’t compete head-on with Apple’s iTunes store, which currently only offers tracks for purchase through a computer. Instead the service will be supported on a number of Nokia and Samsung handsets.
Side-loading vs Over-the-air
It’s hoped that by offering users the option of purchasing tracks “on the go”, directly to their handsets, it will encourage impulse buying, as purchases can be tied to mobile web content, such as a band’s website. It’s also more convenient for users, since getting their music onto a mobile phone involves once less step. However, whether users will be willing to pay more for such a privilege — and how much — remains to be seen. Comparing eMusic’s standard service with its mobile offering, and ‘over-the-air’ downloads look like poor value for money.