Mossberg: renting music ‘far more complicated and restrictive’ than owning music from Apple iTunes

“When you think of legal music downloading on the Internet, you naturally think of Apple Computer’s (AAPL) iTunes Music Store. The first successful legal music service to offer the catalogs of the major labels, iTunes has roughly an 80% share of the legal market, according to Apple. It offers 1.5 million tunes, about 50% more than most competitors, and has sold a staggering 500 million downloaded songs, vastly more than anyone else,” Walter S. Mossberg reports for The Wall Street Journal.

“There are three main reasons for the success of iTunes. First, it is tightly tied to the iPod, Apple’s wildly popular portable music player. The only legal downloads of major record label songs that the iPod can play are those sold by iTunes. Second, it is well-designed, works identically on the Macintosh and Windows PCs, and is easy to use. Third, its restrictions on the use of downloads are comparatively liberal: You can copy each purchased song to up to five computers and to an unlimited number of iPods and burned CDs,” Mossberg reports.

“So Apple’s music competitors are trying something else: a whole different model for distributing music legally. Led by the reincarnated (legal) version of Napster, by RealNetwork’s Rhapsody service and by Yahoo’s new music service, these companies are hoping to win by renting music to consumers rather than selling it to them,” Mossberg reports. “This rental model has attracted a solid audience, but it is nowhere near as popular as iTunes — not even close. That may be because the rental model is far more complicated and restrictive than iTunes, and has several big downsides. The biggest problem with renting is that if you stop paying your subscription, even for one month, all the songs you’ve ever downloaded — going back years — will become inert and unplayable. Rental song files are rigged with computer code that requires a monthly digital confirmation the renter is continuing to pay. Without that, the song files die.”

Full article here.

Related articles:
BusinessWeek: Apple unlikely to launch music subscription service – August 15, 2005
J.P. Morgan: Yahoo music service ‘does little to break Apple’s tight grip’ on digital music market – May 11, 2005
Study shows Apple iTunes Music Store pay-per-download model preferred over subscription service – April 11, 2005


  1. ONLY one way to get the goods, IMO…L~I~V~E!

    Get an ushers job…either that or build your own concert hall and
    get into the game, I mean business. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

    CT ======]———— Finding Stuff

  2. Its like TV I think. You have to keep the subscription or no TV. I think it would make a whole lot more sense for a subscription model tied into a DSL/Cable/Sat subscription. I mean, they already offer channels that are just music. Why not for like $5 more allow someone to be able to download on their iPod?

  3. Another big obstacle is the WMA format and its dreadful, tinny sound. Sure, you can illegally bipass the restrictions and keep the songs, but why?

    You get better sound out of a Victrola! ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

  4. Eric, that analogy would work only if cable TV forced you to keep a downloaded copy of each show you watched, and you would have to download it before you watched it, or while watching it, in order to watch it. Then, to watch it again later on, you’d have to keep paying your subscription.

    I don’t have cable TV, rather just regular, good ol’ fashioned antenna TV, and I don’t have to pay a single dime to watch it. And I can record what I want to watch later on, and don’t have to pay for that, either.

    I pay for my iTMS songs and don’t have to pay for them again. So why would I want a TV subscription model like that?

  5. I wonder who will be the first to flame Mossberg because he didn’t mention songs downloaded from other services can be burned to a CD then ripped in iTunes then loaded onto an iPod….

    I wonder why Apple doesn’t worry about that too much..oh yeah.. pain in the ass.. right.

  6. RE: finelinebob

    Subscription music can’t be burned (easily). You have to purchase the song separately to gain the burning ability

    IMO, those that “record” the music they’re playing are doing worse that those that just share ripped songs on p2p networks. The recording process is very intential and wrong.

  7. As I always say – I have over 7,500 songs on my iPod. Of those, only 15 are from iTunes. And those 15 came from the Pepsi Super Bowl promotion (in other words, I didn’t pay for them).

    However, if I was going to PURCHASE music form an online music portal, why would I purchase (or rent) from any company that doesn’t support both Mac and PC’s? To my knowledge there is only one that supports both – Apple.

    F the rest of them.

  8. One very important thing that shouldn’t be forgotten:

    Unlike cable TV, where if you miss a monthly payment your cable gets cut off, but if you start paying again it gets cut back on, If you stop payment on rented music, your songs go away, and are NOT restored once you resume payment; they’re gone for good.

  9. A subscription service only makes sense if you’re a music addict who downloads constantly. If like me (and most people I know), you only add music to your collection every one or two months, you’ll find yourself constantly paying for the same music. At some point, you’ll ask yourself “Why didn’t I just buy it?”

  10. the best way to buy music online for your iPod is not iTMS with its terrible sound quality. the best way is cduniverse or amazon. you get the music without compression for a couple dollars more. if you don’t like the cd very much, copy it then sell it! the money you get for it will make it cheaper than if you had bought it from iTunes. there will be no DRM and no compression.
    remember, if Apple refuses to license FairPlay you will NEVER be able to buy another makers MP3 player. You are locked in for 10, 20, 30, 40 ,50 years. Unless, of course, you spend the time to copy the downloaded files to a CD and the rip them. by the time you finish doing that, you will realize that you should have bought the real CD in the first place with its much better sound quality.

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