More than 50,000 people downloaded music from EMusic.com as part of the site's one-week give-away promotion during the second week of March. The campaign doubled the amount of daily traffic to the site.
The promotion, which was EMusic's first free album give away, allowed users to download either an entire album or 15 singles from its digital music library for free. The goal was to generate more business and to acquire some of Napster's former users, as well as to inform consumers that there is a “right” way to download music on the Web.
The number of participants in the promotion was “certainly more than we expected,” said Steve Grady, senior vice president of marketing at EMusic.
Based on the success of this campaign, the site expects to run similar promotions in the future, Grady said.
He said the controversy over Napster has polarized the debate over music downloads, with the record labels wanting to retain control of the music and Napster leading people to believe it is all right to download as much music as they want for free.
EMusic wanted the campaign to help consumers think between those two extremes and to forget the negative connotation that has been attached to the term MP3, Grady said. The tag line for the campaign was “MP3 is not a dirty word.”
“This is an uphill battle,” he said. “Most of the knowledge consumers have about downloading music is based around the Napster controversy.”
Consumers signed up for the give away either at EMusic.com or at its 25 to 30 partner sites, including myplay.com, Real.com and independent record label sites. They then received an e-mail containing a password that provided access to the program.
Consumers could browse more than 13,000 albums and 160,000 tracks in EMusic's library. The site also offered information on how to download music legally, Grady said.
“We want to teach them about subscription services and demonstrate that there is a right way to do this,” he said.
EMusic then tried to get the user to become a registered member by making a pitch for a 30-day trial, during which they could download another 100 songs. To take part in that offer, they needed to sign up for either the three-month or 12-month membership program at a cost of $14.99 or $9.99, respectively. If they do not want to remain members, they must cancel after 30 days.
“We are still evaluating the number of people that signed on to become registered members of the site and how many took advantage of the 30-day trial offer,” Grady said.
EMusic realizes that one of Napster's draws was that it was free, and getting people to pay for something they were once getting for free would not be easy, he said.
“This is an education process, and we can't change everyone's mind with one campaign,” he said. “We have to show them this is how they are going to get their music in the future.”
In January EMusic received a 90-day warning notice from the Nasdaq exchange that the price of its stock was less than $1 for more than 30 days and that it could be delisted. While Grady said this campaign was not run in an effort to boost the stock price, he felt the campaign served as a starting point for that process.
As of press time Thursday, the stock price was 7/32, down from a 52-week high of 7 5/8.
“What will have an impact on the stock is building a strong business by adding to our customer base, and that is what we wanted to do with this campaign,” Grady said.
He said EMusic would look at what other companies have done to address similar delisting notices.
EMusic has 4,500 registered members and expects that number to approach 8,000 by year's end.