Sleeping With The Enemy: Indie labels break up with eMusic after catching it in bed with Universal Music Group

You just lost all your indie cred, friendo

From the “Up The Punx, Down With Corporate Rock” Department: Billboard reports that indie labels Domino, Merge, and Beggars Group are pulling their content from eMusic now that the digital music provider has signed what little was left of its soul over to the Devil (which, this time around, took the form of Universal Music Group).

Many people who still pay for music probably remember eMusic as the subscription-based service they used to use before it started to suck. After first opening up shop more than a decade ago, eMusic was initially snubbed by major record labels—primarily due to eMusic’s refusal to include digital rights management (DRM) encoding on their files. That, in turn, won eMusic plenty of fans within the indie community, and led to good working relationships with respected independent labels such as Kill Rock Stars, Merge, Matador, K, and Touch And Go.

Unfortunately, like most relationships, it was not meant to last. Slowly but surely—like a bored lover—eMusic’s eyes started wandering: First, they cozied up with Sony Music Entertainment in mid-2009; then, in January 2010, they were caught nuzzling with Warner Music. (All the while, loyal subscribers saw their monthly rates go up and their allotted number of monthly downloads go down.) Now, as the article states, “Universal Music Group has licensed its catalog to eMusic with 250,000 UMG tracks to be made available for U.S. subscribers later this week.” At which point, the jilted indie community decided it had had enough.

Beggars: “As those of you who buy our music from eMusic will know by now, our music will very shortly no longer be available from that site. We wish this hadn’t happened, but as eMusic has brought major labels on board, they have changed the terms on which they deal with labels in certain ways, some of which we have found impossible to accept, in our own interests, those of our artists, and ultimately those of their fans…We have loved eMusic, and the support it has given to our music, but it was the dedicated home for independent music and is, in our view, not that any more. You will continue to find our music on many other great sites and stores, we encourage you to visit them, or ask us where.”

Merge: “We at Merge are longtime fans of eMusic; it has for years been one of the premiere places to discover new and independent music, and their editorial is among the best around. We are truly grateful for their coverage, and have enjoyed working with them for many years…Unfortunately, eMusic’s unilateral changes in effort to bring on the major labels has created a situation where it would be harmful to the interests of Merge and our artists to continue our partnership at this time. We encourage those who regularly purchase Merge titles from eMusic to head to your local independent record store, the Merge Digital Store, or one of our other digital music partners.”

eMusic’s canned response?

“This is as heartbreaking to us as it is to you. Please know we have done everything we could to keep them from leaving. Forging deals with our label partners can be pretty complex…For those of you wondering if this means eMusic is losing its focus, rest assured, we’re still the place you go to find the records that hover under the radar, records that represent clear artistic vision.”

You know, as long as those records aren’t on Domino. Or Merge. Or Matador. Or XL. Or Rough Trade. Or 4AD. Or…oh, you get the point. Either way, if you’ve got any leftover credits (or whatever it is eMusic is using now) that you want to spend on songs by Philly’s Kurt Vile (currently on Matador, which falls under the Beggars Group umbrella), you’d better do it by the end of the day.