x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

EMI pulls plug on Souq.com store

EMI Music Arabia has pulled its store on Souq.com due to logistical issues, just as Virgin Megastore announces plans to launch a digital music platform before the end of the year.

Hussain Yoosuf, the managing director of Fairwood Music Arabia. Paulo Vecina / The National
Hussain Yoosuf, the managing director of Fairwood Music Arabia. Paulo Vecina / The National

The fight for the attention of music lovers across the Middle East has potentially suffered its first casualty.

EMI Music Arabia has pulled its online store on Souq.com just five months after launching the first-of-its-kind retail concept in the UAE.

The store, which went live in April, offered 6,000 CDs to buy online, to be shipped to homes around the Emirates.

But EMI Music Arabia, a unit of EMI Music, has shut down the store due to "logistical" issues in supplying orders. The problems are being worked on, but it is not clear whether the store will go back on the website.

"The reason for the EMI Music store being on hold is unresolved issues regarding the logistics of continuously supplying orders on EMI's end," said a spokesman from Souq.com.

EMI declined to comment.

EMI's move comes as Virgin Megastore announced it will launch a digital download platform for music lovers by the end of the year.

The platform, similar to the Apple iTunes concept, will mean consumers can download music and listen to it immediately, rather than waiting for delivery of CDs.

Virgin is also rolling out a number of stores across the Middle East, including Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Cairo.

But both Virgin and EMI are trying to build a foothold in a difficult commercial market, plagued by piracy of music on the internet.

Industry experts say a number of companies are trying to fill a "digital void" in the Middle East and that EMI's store could have been a success had the logistical issues been resolved.

"Nothing that people are doing is ill-conceived," said Hussain Yoosuf, the managing director of Fairwood Music Arabia, which represents the publishing rights of Universal Music Publishing and EMI Music Publishing in the UAE. "I don't think that creating the service that had the capacity to deliver physical CDs was a huge endeavour for [EMI]. It was just a simple common sense approach to getting music to people."

EMI said in April it could deliver a CD in three to four days if the album was in stock at the record label's Jebel Ali warehouse.

If the album was not in stock, it would be delivered in an average of 11 days from EMI's central inventory in the Netherlands.

The company said CDs would be delivered by courier, entailing delivery fees of Dh16 (US$4.36) and making a CD more expensive than in a local retail store such as Virgin.

"Will Virgin's digital platform fill the digital void? I hope so and maybe they will," said Mr Yoosuf. "But it remains to be seen."

One of the key advantages for EMI's store was that it offered a pay-on-delivery service, an attractive option for many in the Middle East who have traditionally been reluctant to disclose their credit card details online.