In for a penny, in for a pound. Concord Music Group's Hear Music label (a joint venture with Starbucks Entertainment) announced today that its latest release -- Paul McCartney's "Memory Almost Full" -- will be available on eMusic -- the subscription service that sells discounted MP3 files. Concord has been making its releases available on eMusic since 2005, and "is consistently among the site's top five labels," according to the press release (download the release here).
This is a surprising and welcome development. The major labels and some of the larger indies have shunned eMusic, in part because the service disdains DRM, in part because it tends to pay less per song sold than the typical online music store. (Labels and eMusic split the pot collected from subscribers, who pay $10 or more per month for the right to download upwards of 30 tracks. Some subscribers download less than their full entitlement, which boosts the per-song payment to labels.) And some of the labels that do make albums available on eMusic (e.g., V2) have held back bigger releases for a few weeks, hoping that eMusic subscribers will buy them instead on CD or at iTunes, where the labels' margins are higher. (There was also the Vice Music catalog, which was yanked from eMusic shortly after the latest Bloc Party record came out -- about the same time that Edgar Bronfman J., CEO of Warner Music Group (which distributes Vice) declared his love of DRM.)
As a result, it's been well-nigh impossible to test the impact of eMusic's business model on a big-name release. The McCartney record changes that. Granted, he's not the multi-platinum-seller of yore, but he remains one of the biggest names in show biz. This is a huge win for eMusic.