PC Magazine reviews Apple iTunes 7.6, takes points off for lack of music subscriptions

“In his 2008 Macworld trade show keynote, one of Apple CEO Steve Jobs’s big announcements was that you’d now be able to rent movies as well as just download and buy them outright. He admitted that Apple had bet wrong in offering only sales of downloaded movies. This latest upgrade to Apple iTunes, version 7.6, makes the new rental service possible. But although the current version has a lot going for it, the store still lacks a music-subscription service,” Michael Muchmore and Rick Broida report for PC Magazine.

“A previous upgrade of iTunes, Version 7.4, added support for new iPods, addressed some serious security vulnerabilities and added closed captions, a rating system, and a larger window for viewing video on your computer. That version dovetailed with the release of the classic, the touch, and the third-generation nano. It also let iPhone owners create custom ringtones from songs bought on the iTunes Music Store (for a buck more per song). Version 7.5 added support for the iPhone in territories besides the U.S. and implemented several bug fixes,” Muchmore and Broida report.

“With the latest release, the big news is the introduction of movie rentals, but, disappointingly, music-subscription options like those offered by Napster, Rhapsody, and other Windows Media-based services are still nowhere to be found,” Muchmore and Broida report. “Music remains an à la carte, 99-cents-per-track proposition. For some reason Apple still wants to give this advantage to the Microsoft Zune.”

MacDailyNews Take: Perhaps because music subscription services are vying with Microsoft’s Zune to see which can become the biggest failure? People consume music differently than they do TV shows and movies. We listen to songs over and over, but the number of movies that are watched repeatedly are few and far between. People want to own their music – it’s cheaper than paying for it every month for the rest of your life (depending on your life expectancy). Did Muchmore and Broida really write this B.S., or did greedy, old, give-me-money-for-doing-nothing Doug Morris sit in for a bit of ghostwriting? As we often say about music subscription services: Business models that fly in the face of human nature are doomed to failure. Criticizing Apple’s iTunes for not offering a failed business model taints this review.

Muchmore’s and Broida’s full review — once they figured out how to deauthorize their computer, of course — is here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Corinne” for the heads up.]


  1. iTunes is easy to use and has a very large selection. It needs more, much more to differentiate itself.

    Instead of all the advertising, Apple should look at sites like thesixtyone.com and see how a social site builds interest in music. It’s fun and you find out about lots of music you might never otherwise have heard of.

    As it stands, iTunes is getting a bit long in the tooth in terms of usefulness. I look forward to seeing how well the video rentals work, but for music, I go to the NON DRM AMAZON first, before looking at iTunes.

  2. It’s important to note that the Apple video rental service is still “a la carte.” Customers pay for each movie rental individually. Therefore, it is more similar to the successful pay per song system that Apple uses for music than it is to the unpopular “music subscription” scheme used by the others (except for Amazon). So I don’t understand why these fools feel that Apple should offer music subscriptions because it now offers video rental; they are very different and unrelated.

    Apple seems to be against making creative content into “bulk sales,” where the individual artists receive little, if any, recognition. By selling content individually, whether it’s songs or movie rentals, good art is recognized and (hopefully) the artists are being compensated more fairly.

  3. music subscriptions are like payola or communism. take your pick. they are a failed model because they are “programmed” unlike a la carte purchases where you can pay for exactly what you want and have more choice and know you are directly benefitting the self-publishing musicians. the whole thing is much more free market than having a subscription service tell you to which music you may listen.

  4. A subscription model would be useful for a particular niche, such as shopping centres, call centres, waiting rooms, supermarkets, hotels, gyms – anywhere that plays music for the enjoyment of their customers, clients or guests where access to a wide selection of music is desirable and ownership of individual songs is not.

  5. It’s amazing how reviewers take points off because the reviewed product only does what it is intended for. iTunes lacks music subscription because it is never intended for music subscription, duh! If I review PC Magazine, shall I take points off for a lack of food reviews?

  6. “As it stands, iTunes is getting a bit long in the tooth in terms of usefulness.”

    That’s odd. I find it as useful today as I did the very first day I tried it over 4 years ago. As far as easy of use, it runs circles around Amazon’s no-DRM store. I’m not against Amazon’s offering, I just think it’s visually cluttered and it’s unclear at times as to what they are offering.

  7. I wish these guys would stop calling it a “subscription”. It’s NOT a subscription. If I subscribe to a magazine or newspaper, I get to keep every issue I paid for. I don’t have to give back my old issues when I decide to stop my subscription. If I rent a car, I know I have to return it. But if I “subscribe” to one of their “subscription” models and I decide to stop my subscription, I lose all my music. Poof! Gone. It’s not a subscription at all and every time they use that word to describe that service, they’re lying to consumers.

    MW: “remember”, as in remember the difference between a rental and a subscription.

  8. I’d love to have a subscription option available through iTunes. I’d like to be able to listen to entire albums a few times and decide which (if any) of the cuts I’d really want to keep, and then have the option to buy them DRM-free. Exploring new music is a lot less risky with a subscription approach; the 30-second previews usually aren’t enough for me to really know if I want to buy the track (although they are often enough for me to know that I *don’t*).

    I think they’re missing out on a great marketing opportunity here. Imagine if I got a small discount on the subscription service each time I bought a track. Or if iTunes added smart playlists that made it easy to find and buy the subscription-only tracks I had listened to a lot and/or rated highly.

    The main caveat here is that the service would have to work reliably. I tried the Yahoo Music Engine service a while back with a Creative Zen Micro, and it was constantly needing firmware upgrades or complaining that it needed to phone home to see if I still had a valid account. That was more trouble than it was worth.

  9. Give the people what they don’t want. Yep, sounds like a great idea to me. I never understood what is appealing about a music subscription service. This article doesn’t surprise me coming from PC magazine.

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