CNET: Should Apple ‘take a chance’ with music subscriptions?

“The all-you-can-eat music services are the ones getting chewed up. So why do rumours persist that Apple is interested in getting into music subscriptions? In March, the Financial Times reported that Apple had talked with the top record labels about the possibility of launching a service that would give iTunes users access to its entire library in exchange for paying a premium for iPods or iPhones,” Greg Sandoval writes for CNET.

“My music industry sources confirmed that Apple has discussed a subscription service with the music industry but said that Apple has yet to sign any licensing deals,” Sandoval writes. “Still, the question is what motivated Apple to consider subscriptions.”

Subscription services “are designed to generate a recurring income for the music industry,” Sandoval writes. “This is just one of the many digital business models the labels are testing. What the mobile phone companies must do now is prove they can overcome the obstacles that tripped up other services. One of the biggest challenges, if not the biggest, is consumers apparently don’t like the idea of their music disappearing if they stop paying fees.”

“Any new music service, whether selling downloads or subscriptions, must compete against iTunes, the No. 1 music retailer in the land, which just happens to be tethered to the best-selling digital music player, the iPod,” Sandoval writes.

MacDailyNews Note: iPods do not require iTunes Store to operate. iTunes Store content does not require iPods to play. iTunes Store is “tethered” to iPod only in a marketing sense.

Sandoval continues, “While some download stores, such as and BigPond, have begun selling songs in the MP3 format — which means they will play on the iPod — subscription services still wrap music in digital rights management software. That means those songs won’t play on the iPod… Who knows, Apple could come in and prove the experts wrong, but at this point a better strategy appears to be to let others keep taking their whacks.”

Full article here.

[Attribution: MacSurfer. Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Brawndo Drinker” for the heads up.]

Apple would not be “taking a chance” if they offered a music subscription service. They’d likely make it at least a modest success. That said, we prefer to own, not rent, our music, thank you very much.

This is an example of a place where Apple is falling behind. If they don’t adopt a subscription model, we’re going to see the Macification of the iTunes Music Store this year.Paul Thurrott, May 13, 2004


  1. I certainly hope so.

    I would like to replace my Sirius XM subscription with a try-buy subscription from iTunes.

    My problem is that I don’t know what music I want to own, and have trouble with commitments. (purchases)

  2. I don’t know what the numbers are, but it’d be safe to say at least few percentage points of market share that Apple doesn’t already have might be owed to folks who (for some reason) would rather rent than own the music.

    I think it would be a smart decision for Apple to add the service. All it is is an option for people, and options are good. I’d look at it as an accessory. Some people will want it, some won’t. But at least by offering it you don’t lose out on customers who prefer that model.

  3. My opinion is that a very good alternative to subscription music is a low-quality (AM-radio-like), 3-day-expiring download of a song with no charge. This way you can listen to the entire play of any song you think you might like, and buy it if you like it. There might even be a nominal charge to participate in this (say $1.99 per month), which wouldn’t be unreasonable. This way you can preview anything, just as you would listening to the radio, and buy what you like.

  4. Seriously, F— this subscription crap. It’s a boring business model, a small upside, and will serve only to rile up the CNET MS-wankers who wanted Apple to ‘go back’ on their previous statement that people want to Own their music.

    This whole piece is disigenuous.

  5. CNET as with all of the other msft groupies, would want to see Apple ‘try’ allot of things – And hope that they would fail. In fact, they would throw as many wrenches as they could into into it. The evil empire spends every waking moment trying to disrupt Apple.

  6. The only way a subscription music service would make sense would be a rent-to-own scheme. Subscribe to any music for more than a year, and it is yours. Then it would be a try-before-you-buy and pay-as-you-go kinda system.

    That way not all your music will evaporate if you stop paying the rent.

  7. How about this: Apple will offer a subscription service in exchange for all labels making their entire catalogue available on iTunes DRM-free for sale. Apple will only put DRM on music offered through subscription.

    That way, the labels assume the benefit they insist on seeing in a subscription service in exchange for the rest of us not having to be shackled to a five computer limit on our purchased iTunes.

  8. ‘just one of the many digital business models the labels are testing…’

    Why? Because…

    ‘… subscription services are designed to generate a recurring income for the music industry’

    Apple isn’t interested and neither are the vast majority of consumers, but the LABELS really like the idea. That is why it doesn’t die.

  9. I think that it is essentially proven that music subscriptions don’t work. The public doesn’t want them. What the public wants is movie/tv show subscriptions. Netflix has proven that the public likes the idea of all you can eat movies etc… Make this happen, not music. I would subscribe ina heartbeat to a movie subscription platform. I do also think that this is the future of television.

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