by Mike Masnick

Why Buy When You Can Rent Digital Music?

from the return-of-subscriptions dept

When the first authorized music download services showed up online, they were mostly subscription-based services, and they failed miserably. The larger success didn't hit until Apple moved to a per song download offering with iTunes. However, many are predicting that the wave of the future will be subscription services, but they don't necessarily explain why. Arguments on both sides make sense. People do often gravitate to flat-rate pricing plans, even if just for the certainty of it (witness ISPs, mobile phone plans, telephone plans, etc.). However, as the article notes, all of these subscription services seem to work on the idea that if you ever cancel your service, you lose access to all the tracks you've downloaded -- though, it's not clear why that's a necessary feature. In fact, it seems overly burdensome, requiring the music to always remain within a framework that can be checked to make sure a subscription is current. The reasoning, probably, is that without that, people would just sign up for one month, download everything they want and quit. While there may be some people who do this, most won't bother -- and there are other defenses against this. The best of all, of course, is simply to keep producing good music that people will continue to want. However, if you watch the way the recording industry functions, it's as if they believe they'll never produce good music again. That's why they feel the need to overly protect the stuff they've done in the past. Subscription services can be done well, but being overly protective will kill the incentive for many people to sign up.

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  • identicon
    jeremiah, 2 Dec 2004 @ 9:10am



    About as flat-rate as it gets.


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  • identicon
    William, 2 Dec 2004 @ 9:11am

    No Subject Given

    Hear hear, I agree with your analysis.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zippy, 2 Dec 2004 @ 9:51am

    Rhapsody etc

    I personally like the Rhapsody model. I pay $10/month for unlimited streaming and for songs I really like, I can buy them for 79c. The downloaded songs are mine to keep even if I cancel the subscription. I was a little scared when Real bought, but so far they seem to have left the model alone. Now, even some home media server boxes (like Prismiq) are supporting Rhapsody, so it even works pretty well for a home entertainment setup. The only problem is if you prefer to take your songs with you on your iPod or whatever, but there's no reason a PocketPC with EV-DO can't have a Rhapsody client on it too. And then you can really say, "my mp3 player has 700,000+ songs :)"

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  • identicon
    Jonathan, 2 Dec 2004 @ 10:20am

    No Subject Given

    If done right, the subscription model could be huge, and would make paying for music by song a thing of the past.
    Imagine the following:
    You have your portable player (It does not matter who makes it). You go to your subscription service and feel like you are in the mood for early 80s music. You download the tracks you already know and like. The service then downloads another 5000 songs you forgot or did not know about. Then while listening you can rate the songs on your device. Through a couple of iterations of this process, you could discover a whole host of music you enjoy, but never heard before.
    This is basically what a lot of people do on P2P networks now, but it would be a device level interface, be legal, be encouraged, and be fast.
    And then the songs on your device could change depending on what you wanted to listen to.
    You could connect it to the internet, and then say I want Jazz today. And wham, 10 Gb of Jazz. 5Gb you already like, and 5Gb you can listen to, expanding your library.
    All of this would not only increase the music you listen to, it would give opportunities for many new bands in niche markets to be heard.
    This is not too far off from now. Microsoft is trying to do it with but so far the only portable implentation is not quite ready for primetime.
    If you think that the iPod is the killer app, the service that lets you create the perfect personalized play list would be incredible.

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  • identicon
    Andy Breeding, 2 Dec 2004 @ 12:23pm

    all-you-can-drink = freedom to explore

    Subscription-based online jukebox services like Rhapsody (see review), Musicmatch On-Demand (see review), and Napster let you try lots of new music without worrying about how it's going to hit your wallet. You've already paid your monthly fee, just like you would with Cable TV or Netflix, and now you're free to make use of the entire catalog. Try doing that with the iTunes Music Store at $0.99 a track--ain't gonna happen.

    What's more, these services free people from the burden of creating and managing a digital music collection. Just think: no worrying about back-ups, no messing with track tags, music directories, etc. I think there are a few people out there who would appreciate that..

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  • identicon
    Diane, 4 Dec 2004 @ 7:06am

    Music Subscriptions

    For an interesting middle ground of this model, see
    Subscription, individualized streaming that I think works very well. It's better than downloaded music because it's random and new music is thrown into the mix. It's better than ordinary radio streams because it's not ordinary.

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  • identicon
    Michael, 5 Dec 2004 @ 4:41am

    Why buy when you can rent Digital Music

    I have gathered a concensus of friends my age, OLD. We listen to the same music we acquired a taste to when teenagers and early 20īs. After that.... we become like our parents, "they donīt make 'em like they used to".

    My CD collection has been expanding over the years, replacements for my vinyl and the occasional new release from my favourite dinosaurs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    chrisl, 29 Dec 2004 @ 4:29pm

    Who wouldn't rent CD music online?

    I've been searching for a place to rent CDs for a while now so I can safely say i'd be one of the first to try a subscription if it was available. Anybody know of companies starting up a similar service??? Let me know.


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