Apple cautious about online music subscription model

“Technology moves at broadband speeds. But the music industry’s transformation to the digital era has been trickling along at a pace suitable to that modem you tossed out when you got your high-speed connection. Apple’s iTunes Music Store—which has sold more than 350 million downloads at a buck a pop—has been wildly successful. But because digitized music can be distributed, paid for and listened to in so many ways, there’s room for other business models that could potentially grow the whole industry. Apple CEO Steve Jobs professes to be cautious about this issue—’We’re not religious on this, but there’s no evidence people want [other models],’ he says—but others have been brainstorming different ways to move legal digital music forward. Now we’re finally seeing some of the schemes come to market,” Steven Levy writes for Newsweek.

Levy covers the subscription models of Napster To Go and Rhapsody To Go and other music service models in the full article here.


  1. I would be a lot less interested in other services, whether subscription or not, if Apple would get its act together and offer ITMS here in Switzerland. Until then, Napster to go may be the best we can hope for.

  2. Napster and Rhapsody models suck. You end up paying more in the end then you save. I’d rather just pay my dollar and then not have to worry about another monthly bill so I can keep listening to my music. Apple’s approach is still the best one out there. The key word is simple.
    And I get to keep my music forever!

  3. I LOVE MACS! I think thet apple is very smart with iPod (how i want 1!!) and how now everonye, loves to buy and trade music online. it makes life more better, yes.

    if you have music and want to trade for flippino artists, let me know!

  4. Here’s the one reason why renting music could be good: assuming you keep your subscription, you will automatically benefit from any upgrades in audio quality that a service may provide. If Apple upgrades the audio quality on their catalog, those of us who have already purchased tracks are stuck with our old 128 AAC files.

  5. I’m glad to hear that SJ’s attitude is pragmatic, rather than dogmatic, on this. There ARE going to be a few people (relatively speaking) who would benefit from a subscription model–those who like to listen to MANY different songs, including a large number of NEW offerings. Frankly, I don’t see why Apple would want to write off even 10-15% of the download market. As someone else said, just offer the damn thing, if only to quiet the worry warts on Wall Street who think this could be a problem. With the Shuffle and Photo iPod, Apple is now competitive in ALL significant aspects of the mp3 player market–it should be even easier for Apple to do the same on the downloads side.

  6. The music subscription thing might be the way to go for many people. Those who I talk to balk when I tell them that they may not keep the music if they stop paying. Of course you can burn it to CD, then copy it back… For most regular folk, they just want to download it and play it however they want on whatever they want.

    ITMS is really doing us a disservice by not allowing us to download our music a second, third, or twentieth time onto our three computers after we purchase it. I have a PC and two Macs. I would greatly appreciate some synchronising tools that would keep my Macs at least updated with the same files.

    Feel free to email me with products that do this. I’ve got Tiger.

    Maybe Automator will do this?

  7. I detest music rental models.

    However, could see where if someone listened to many different songs and didn’t really care about listening to it again, a subscription model would be beneficial. If it floats your boat, good for you.

    The $1 / song model works great for me because once I pay for a song, I want control over where, when, and how long I listen to it. I have yet to bump up against any of the DRM controls in iTMS.

  8. I was just in a BrookStone Store in Dulles Airport, Washinton DC. They had a Creative Zen on display. The sales guy tried to extoll it’s benefits but didn’t do a very good job at all. First of all, it didn’t work right. I could access the main menu and that was it. The sales guy said it was because they had to drill a tiny hole to put the security wire through and that screwed it up. He then tried to tell me that it gave me more choice cuz the iPod only works with ITMS. By this time two more sales people had joined the fray (I was the only customer in the store at the time). Another sales guy said it works with 4 online stores instead of just one. I asked which stores and the first two sales people didn’t know. The third could only come up with Napster. He said that for 5 dollars you could download all the music you wanted and put it on the Zen. I corrected him and told him it was 15 dollars and if he quit paying the rental fee all his music would go away. This seemed to be news to him and he tried to cover by saying there should be a way to get around that. I said that there was but that it was illegal and if you were going to do it illegally you might as well download it off Kazaa in the first place. It was getting old fast and I had to catch my flight so I took my leave then.

    I thought the whole incident pretty clearly outlined how clueless most people are on the whole thing – even when they are selling it. Most iPod, iTunes, and ITMS users don’t realize how good they really have it – but they have drunk the cool-aid now and have at least one good experience of everything just working under their belts. If they try and switch to an inferior but cheaper alternative in the future, it will be painfully obvious just what they have lost.

    The genie is out of the bottle on this one and I’ll bet that with every new iPod user, Bill Gates gets a little more worried.

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