eMusic loses Vital support

[intro]Log on to eMusic today and you’ll find it a quieter place. A batch of big names have packed and left. But will they be back?[/intro] I’m afrai

I’m afraid, dear Stuffers, I begin the week with some bad news. One of the biggest distributors of digital tunes on eMusic, Vital: PIAS Digital, has ‘temporarily’ withdrawn a stack of its independent labels from the DRM-free download site.

One of the biggest losses is Domino – home to the Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand – which is widely regarded as one of the most important independent labels in the UK. Also killed off in the cull are electronica wizard Warp Records, Fatboy Slim’s Brighton-based Skint Records, and supporter of all things skinny-jeaned, City Rockers.

According to my contact at eMusic, Vital requested for the material to be removed ‘temporarily’ from the European site. Unfortunately, that’s where the information stops. The big question is: when will it be back?

It comes just weeks after Napster announced it’ll be downsizing its UK team and shifting major operations into Europe. Subscription services generally offer less revenue to labels than pay-per-download stores like iTunes or 7Digital, so let’s just hope this isn’t the start of a backlash.

The withdrawal also highlights how fragile online music stores can be. With disputes among record labels and distributors getting more common over the DRM debate, in one moment an entire back catalogue can be removed from your mouse pointer’s grasp, never to be returned. I can’t ever see that ever happening on the shelves of HMV, can you?