by Carlo Longino

Filed Under:
music, ownership, rental, zune


Zune Music Rental Service, Now With Stuff You Get To Keep, Too

from the getting-desperate? dept

Online-music rental services -- where users get access to a library of songs for as long as they pay a monthly fee -- keep hanging around, despite little apparent interest in them. In an attempt to breathe some life into its subscription service, called Zune Pass, Microsoft is now giving subscribers 10 songs they can permanently keep per month. The company says its research shows that more consumers might consider subscription services at current pricing levels if they got "to take something with them." But isn't that just saying consumers prefer to buy music, rather than rent it? Rentals work for one-time-use items like movies and books, but for things like songs, which people tend to listen to multiple times, subscriptions aren't attractive. The argument that subscriptions are good for discovery doesn't really hold water, either, given the proliferation of online services that let users listen to huge libraries of music for free. One other angle to this news: why would anybody purchase digital content from Microsoft after the PlaysForSure fiasco, in which it shut off its DRM servers, making it impossible to transfer PlaysForSure-"protected" content to any new devices, rendering it largely useless?

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Brad Martin, Nov 21st, 2008 @ 5:10pm

    Zune Pass

    With the 10 credits you get per month you can download the MP3 version of the song to keep (assuming its available of course) so the PlaysForSure fiasco doesn't really apply.

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

  2. identicon
    Jeff Rife, Nov 21st, 2008 @ 5:17pm

    This does make it a lot more attractive, especially for people who don't have a music collection yet.

    Think of it as having a music rental service for $5/month and also buying 10 non-DRM songs/month. You could load everything you want to hear in your Zune, and mark the songs you want to keep permanently for eventual "purchase".

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

  3. identicon
    Joel, Nov 21st, 2008 @ 6:00pm

    This article has a very negative spin to it. At the current price point ( $14.95 ) I've never seriously considered the zune pass. There are often times where I think, "Maybe I'll buy that song" and then I forget and get on with life. If I had 10 built in song purchases per month, I would be much more apt to just buy the song, especially with the new wifi song store available on the zune.

    When Rhapsody started, it was $4.99 per month. I used it for 6 months or so and enjoyed listening to any music I wanted on demand. This deal finally puts it on par with that, but I can take it with me on the zune, and I find myself considering it again. Of course, I wouldn't waste any of my 10 downloads on non-mp3 format music.

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2008 @ 7:09pm

    This is pretty much what I've been doing for years already, except I never paid to "rent" my songs. I downloaded them, and if I liked them I would buy them on vinyl. Why vinyl? Because that's the only way that the genre of music I play as a DJ is distributed.

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2008 @ 8:26pm

    Microsoft has a conscription ... errr I mean subscription service ?

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

  6. identicon
    Mike, Nov 22nd, 2008 @ 8:43am

    Zune Pass Rocks

    Wow talk about a negative spin, the Zune pass was a pretty good deal BEFORE they offered the Keep 10/month, but now it's a no brainer.

    So kudo's to Microsoft for taking a service that was useful and making it a great deal. For a little more than the cost of a CD, you get to download and discover tons of music, and hey keep 10 of your favs each month.

    The Zune device itself is great and Microsoft needs to differentiate themselves from Apple and I think they are doing a good job thus far.

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

  7. identicon
    Joe, Nov 22nd, 2008 @ 2:44pm

    "Consumers prefer to buy music, rather than rent it..."

    @joel- I agree. The article is spun very negatively, as the author doesn't see any value in subscription services.

    However, what does he suggest as an alternative? I'm sure he has all kinds of suggestions as to how we can have an all-you-can-eat music offering for the purposes of putting on our large storage media players nowadays?

    No? Shocking.

    Unfortunately, the tech media has the same knee-jerk poo-pooing of anything that's not Apple-driven. Wait 'til Apple someday(?) offers a subscription plan that will finally work with iPods. It'll be like the second coming of Jesus(phone?)

    Unfortunately, because of iPods' popularity and iTunes branding success (because really, is iTunes the best music store anymore? Hell no.) there are millions out there pirating music because they don't have a better alternative than forking out $.99 per track or $10 an album to fill at this point a ridiculous amount of space.

    If you want to acquire music legally, you have to either 1) buy CDs like crazy at an exorbitant cost (or used), or 2) buy tracks and albums through digital stores at an equivalent cost, even though you're getting less (i.e. album art, disc, etc.)

    If you're going to do nothing but use a media player, why do you need to own the music? I left that behind a LONG time ago. The only time I buy a CD now (rhapsody sub, thank you) is if I truly support the artist and definitely want a hard backup. Otherwise, a sub plan is great. All-you-can-eat infinite music for a reasonable cost.

    Now with Zune.net giving you what amounts to $10 of your sub back? Hell yes, i'm going to take MS up on it. It offers a hell of a lot more value and convenience than trudging through iTunes or pirating.

    Eventually the tech "everything should be free" types will realize that paying for some added value is not a bad thing.

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

  8. identicon
    MMalek, Nov 23rd, 2008 @ 7:31am

    Interesting read(s). I see a great future in giving access to IP (i.e. copies) instead of having each user purchase a single copy. The de-facto competition is illegal copies rather than other purchased copies (e.g. ItunesStore)

    Swedish Spotify is creating a major stir in Sweden by offering both a ad-based model and a premium one for approx 15$ / month. I have no experience from Zune - but Spotify in my mind is just brilliant and has moved myself and many swedes with me away from Itunes for all listening, when not on the move.

    My friend has an interesting post on this here (http://intellectualasset.blogspot.com/2008/11/is-spotify-model.html )

    As previous comment suggest I totally agree that it's worth the couple of bucks a month. Another aspect that is magnificent with spotify is the possibility to share playlists with other subscribers. Perhaps not as good as LastFm hashing and recommendations - but still ok. Naturally one would like to integrate it with purchased tracks or the ipod - but one step at a time..

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

  9. identicon
    Ed, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 6:19am

    I smell Astroturf

    Hmmm, all of the sudden there are people telling the "Author" how great subscription services are, so much so that its a "No brainer".

    Its a shame the "Author" of the post didn't identify himself in an easy to see position, say right at the end of the blog.

    If subscriptions are such a no brainer how come nobody seems to want them, leading to desperate moves such as this?

    Personally, I don't see myself getting involved in a subscription model. Every where you turn these days, companies are trying to sign you up for a monthly charge.

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

  10. identicon
    Justin, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 7:12am

    Sick of this crap

    I am getting so sick of all these "Independent" news site bashing the living shit out of MS. Unless you are 100% not using anything MS related shut the hell up already. They are a part of day to day life for a lot of people. The Zune Pass and Player which I find a shitload better than any version of the iPOD, is nice to have. I quit buying cds because of the fluff tracks. Buy 13 tracks and only listen to 2. Now i can and do download the whole cd hell i even download artists entire collection. This gives me a chance to look at the tracks that are the most played, keep them and burn them to a cd to keep in my vehicles. I have downloaded over 10,000 songs using the Zune pass, all for less than 300 bucks, haven't had it for 2 years yet even. just last night for instance i downloaded 745 songs, I was gearing up for Christmas. Half of what i downloaded will get deleted once x-mas is over. People think the apple store is and macs in general are so innovative, all apple does is create software that MS got sued for creating; antitrust piece of shit EU you can thank for that. Take the Mac backup solution and commercial, that was what system restore was supposed to be until they slapped lawsuits all over it. companies with shitty software like go-back were the replacement and i agree, its ridiculous to buy that shit.

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

  11. identicon
    NPGMBR, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 9:19am


    My God that was two times as funny as the time I shit myself on the metro!

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

  12. identicon
    NPGMBR, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 9:35am

    Re: Sick of this crap

    I agree completely. Been a Zunester since the second gen device and Marketplace were launched and been a Zune Pass subscriber ever since. I own about three hundred CDs but I don't buy them anymore with the exception of my VERY FAVORITE artists. Subscription works for me because it allows me to review the ENTIRE ALBUM as many times as I like to determine if I like it enough to keep it and delete the tracks I don’t. Thats helpful because im not a fair weather or whats hot music fan.

    When I got my Zune my collection consisted of about 2000 tracks and now its at 4600. My Zune Pass is responsible for that because it allows me to check out far more music than I could ever have imagined. People that hate the subscription model refuse to see its value and thats fine with me but ask yourself this: Whats the value of all those CDs when you die? If you live to a ripe old age they won't be worth crap and don't even think they will be vintage because they are far too plentiful now and the master (which is held by the artist and/or record company) is where the true value is.

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

  13. identicon
    David, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 10:12am

    Hi, my name is david and I'm a music subsriber.

    I subscribe to Rhapsody. I like it for the same reasons stated here and I have been thinking about buying a new music device (I have an iriver PMC-120 (it's quite a few years old), and I admit that this promotion has me thinking about a Zune, and their rental service.

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

  14. identicon
    Justin, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 11:21am

    Re: David

    The Zune is a great choice, there aren't a lot of decent radio stations where I live but of a few of them are using the Radio Data Properly. I know a lot of people say radio is dead but one of the local stations does a top requested nightly list. I use this on the Zune to tag the songs I like then later my Zune will download them. It also helps to find the album, while most CDs only have a few songs that make mainstream using the sub model I have found other tracks on CDs that I like. Its something that is well worth trying and something you might not have though of, Zune Pass has a trial. Also something that is hardly mentioned is the fact that a Zune Pass works on 3 Computers and Zunes. Its great for me and my girlfriend, not having a lot of her stuff mixed in with mine, our tastes in music are very different. I am pretty sure you don't need the device to use the software, take it for a test drive and then make an informed decision.

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

  15. identicon
    Justin, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 11:36am


    Actually i know it doesn't I use the software on my PC at work and have never hooked my Zune up to it.

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

  16. identicon
    Bruce, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 4:35pm


    Actually, like a few of the other commenters above, I quite enjoyed renting music. I equated it to subscribing to satellite radio--but even better because I could choose the songs I wanted to hear. I listen to a wide variety of music and the rental services allowed me to listen to thousands of different songs from hundreds of artists and genres--all commercial free as well. As long as you look at it as the ultimate radio station rather than comparing it to purchasing tracks, it is a great method to listen to music.
    Now, having said all that, I finally gave up my subscription due to the enormous frustration of dealing with DRM--tracks that wouldn't play, or stopped playing until I re-authenticated, and device crashes and hangs that simply didn't occur with non-DRM files. I now use Pandora, which is great, but still doesn't have the enormous flexibility of the rental service.

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

  17. identicon
    Caleb, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 4:51pm

    I think it's a great idea!

    This plan is essentially a great idea not because it is a rental but because 2/3 of the money you pay is "refunded" is songs you own permanently. It's kinda like 5$/month to listen to unlimited music - and you buy your favorite album of them all. For many people who buy music, I believe they would spend 5$/month to listen to all the music they wanted, get 10 songs, and probably buy even more of the music. If you subscription goes to hell, you've still got some songs to listen to. I might get a zune just because of this plan - although it would require me to pay, which I really don't like to do...

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

  18. identicon
    Ipods suck, Nov 27th, 2008 @ 8:02pm


    No offence to apple etc, but honestly ipods and the itunes service suck. The encoding sucks through Itunes and is expensive. I can legally buy mp3 songs encoded at 320Kbs for around 25 cents a song, if you pay per mb as oppose to per song. Also the zune pass is a great deal, considering you can share all your music with any other zune owner. Everything about the Zune is better. I personally feel it offers the best value right across the board when compared to any other player and music service

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

  19. identicon
    just me..., Nov 27th, 2008 @ 8:08pm

    Re: Zune Pass Rocks

    Mike you are 100% correct.
    Who ever wrote this article is kinda clueless aswell.

    MS needs to get more agressive with the Zune and maybe add some more features to its software, but it is the best value, the best quality player, and has one of the best marketplaces going.

    Screw Apple, ipods are for posers and wanna-be's

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

  20. identicon
    Riley, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 8:53pm

    I have a question...

    I have seriously been considering getting a Zune Pass Subscription. I love my new Zune 120, and it's much better than the iPod classic I bought a week before I got my Zune (the iPod was acting up).
    I've seen on many websites the statements that you can only keep ten of your favorite songs per month instead of however many you want. Is this true? Because I download a boat-load of songs every month. Last month I downloaded 30 songs, and I wish to keep them all. So would a Zune Pass let me download AND KEEP as many songs as I want, or just ten? Also, can you purchase movies on the Zune Pass, such as The Dark Knight or something? Please reply as soon as possible, because by the end of the week, I will have to decide if I want to keep my iPod or my Zune. I cannot have both, so please respond quickly. Thank you.

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

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.