iTunes, Google Play Music face a surprise rival – an Israeli start-up

TriPlay’s acquisition of eMusic now makes it one of the largest music services in the world

eMusic app screenshot (Courtesy)
eMusic app screenshot (Courtesy)

Overnight, an Israeli cloud-based music access platform start-up has become one of the world’s largest digital music services.

Comparable in size to iTunes and Google Play Music, eMusic was bought by Ramat Gan-based TriPlay for an undisclosed amount in cash and stock. The deal retains the executives and employees of eMusic and integrates both companies’ operations, TriPlay said.

With the acquisition, TriPlay gets a catalog of over 25 million songs from every genre, and a host of loyal users who swear by the service, eschewing the more commercial services that play the “same old stuff” and preferring eMusic, which chiefly features music by independent and new artists.

It’s fitting that his company should be the one to take up the cause of eMusic, its artists and its listeners, TriPlay founder and CEO Tamir Koch told The Times of Israel in a late-night interview just hours after completing the deal.

“eMusic users are independent spirits who don’t want to be tied down or buttonholed, and that includes being tethered to a specific device. Our platform allows users to access music they own from the cloud on practically any connected device out there. We provide accessibility on over 14 platforms via the web and apps, so users are free to listen to their music their own way.”

That’s an important value for eMusic users, who pride themselves on their choice in music. For years, eMusic has specialized in indie music – songs and albums by artists that are not signed with major music labels but instead market their music on their own.

Tamir Koch (Courtesy)
Tamir Koch (Courtesy)

The ability of artists to do that is more important to them than ever. The most popular vehicles for the delivery of music today are streaming services, like Spotify – and while streaming has been a boon for listeners, at least for those who are willing to swear allegiance to a service and a device, it’s been a disaster for artists.

“’Happy’ by Pharrell Williams was the most streamed song of 2015, and he made a paltry amount on that,” said Koch. On Pandora, for example, Williams got less than $3,000 for 43 million streams of the song.

“It’s just ridiculous,” said Koch. “Our model is the direct sale of music to users, who can download and store it on their computers, devices, or store them in the cloud, and access them anywhere and anytime. The artists gets their share and they’re able to support themselves with dignity, while the customer gets clear ownership of the music they want.”

For users, there is an important element of independence as well. While many purchasing and streaming services “prefer” that you use specific devices – for example, music purchased from iTunes is much happier on an iPhone or a Mac than on competing systems – TriPlay’s system ensures that music can be listened to on any device and in any format.

“We are the only service to cater to all devices,” said Koch. “We’re not tied to any device, so users have a lot more flexibility in how they listen to their music. And the fact that they own the music outright means they don’t have to worry about how many devices a song sits on or how many times it was played, as with other services.”

Koch says that indie music fans constitute the second biggest group of music lovers.

“In the US, 20% of people who listen to music prefer non-mainstream music,” said Koch. “That’s a market plenty large enough to make this acquisition an extremely significant move for TriPlay, and for the industry.”

eMusic, established in 1998, was one of the first digital music services – predating the iTunes Store by five years. Since then, it’s gone through many changes (and has been sold several times), shifting from a streaming service for Top 40 hits to a download-to-own service for more eclectic offerings – to the delight of the many fans of indie music, who’s musical online home Koch promises to tend to lovingly.

“We are thrilled to join forces with this pioneer of the digital music industry to offer all our users the wide variety of music they love in a comprehensive, next-generation platform, complete with the features they want and need,” said Koch. “There is a lot more music in the world than what you find on the radio. Our broad catalog, global access and wide selection of features are what the millions of eMusic and MyMusicCloud users are looking for. In the coming months, our users will begin to see significant enhancements as we introduce the complete music service they want, accessible anywhere, anytime and on any device.”

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