Yay, subscriptions!

Hey, kids! You looooooove subscription-based music subscription models, don’t you?!

Sure you do! Everyone does!

Why, Universal Music Group’s Jimmy Iovine loves subscriptions!

“We have to get into more of the revenue stream. The eventual answer may be a flat fee that enables you to listen to all the music you want.”

And he knows Bruce Springsteen!

But it’s not just him! The big brains at Jupiter Research likes subscriptions, too!

So why wouldn’t you love subscriptions?! Why ya gotta own everything? Are you greedy? Is that it? Just thinking about yourself and not struggling music industry executives, their brows moist with perspiration (albeit induced by the elliptical trainer) as they pick which music they’re going to ram down your throats this year?

Or maybe you’re thinking about the so-called “artists”, really nothing more than a collection of un-showered communists, if you ask the Macalope. Thank goodness someone is doing something to put them in their place.

No, no. The sooner you start sending your monthly tithe to the recording industry, the sooner we’ll achieve the perfect musical utopia they have planned for us.

UPDATE: Andy Ihnatko provides some strikingly similar thoughts in his Zune review.

  • I dunno, ever since jhymn started breaking, I don’t feel like I “own” much of anything I bought on iTunes (which is not to say it hasn’t stopped me spending dough there).

    I’m really starting to warm to the idea of subscriptions. AYCE iPod buffet for, say, $20/month? You bet I’d pony up.

  • It probably depends on your buying pattern. There are some but not that many months where the Macalope will spend that much. But also there’s just a principle here. Given the choice of being able to listen to a track in perpetuity (even if one has to burn and re-rip) and listening to it at the whim of the recording industry by means of their tenuous contractual relationships with technology companies, the Macalope will take the former.

  • I tend to agree with the Macalope. While I don’t truely own anything off the iTunes store I can always re-rip it and then have full control over it. The idea of the loss of quality doesn’t bother me much because the music is not that high quality to begin with. While it would be nice to have access to anything on the store at any time, you can bet, as it is with the Zune Marketplace, that there are songs that a subscription won’t cover, and then you’ll have to buy them outright anyways.

  • http://www.bleep.com. 99p per track, albums of varying, generally good price.

    All new music now encoded as 320kbps MP3s, some (or possibly all) also available as FLAC.

    Only catch is it’s music from a whole bunch of independent labels. Yup, no Britney. But they give away free stuff fairly often.

  • Will:

    Why is everybody so violently against music subscription services? Why do people froth at the mouth and whimper and twitch and let hatred of the admittedly vile record companies obscure the truth of what would be an *incredible* value proposition?

    I’ve bought at least 1,500 CDs in the last 20 years. Let’s say – conservatively – that’s $10,000 I’ve invested in music. 20 years of subscribing to, say, Urge would set me back $3,600. That’s a fraction of a cost for a hell of a lot more music – and in a much more convenient form. (I know, I know. I’m not accounting for inflation, price changes over time, or the fact that Urge surely didn’t exist 20 years ago. Humor me. The basic point remains valid.)

    I don’t think there’s been a single month in my adult life when I haven’t spent at least $15 on CDs. I love music. I love all sorts of music. I love discovering exciting new music, and I love digging up forgotten old favourites. For a music-lover like me, the idea of having unlimited access to a library of *hundreds of thousands* of albums is positively orgasmic.

    I will not buy music from the iTunes Store. I will not buy music that is DRM-encumbered *and* low bitrate *and* more or less the same price as buying a CD which is neither of those things. But would I pay The Steve $15 for 30 days of unlimited access to all (or nearly all) of the iTunes Store library? You bet your ass. I’d pay twice that. If the iTunes Store only has 80% of the music I’d otherwise be buying (a reasonable estimate), I’d still come out *way* ahead.

    The point isn’t to *own* the music. The point is to *listen* to the music. (That said, I’m not suggesting that it’s OK to pirate the music. I very much want musicians to make some money, so they can make more music that I like. The current industry system may suck rocks, with most of the money going straight down the maw of the record companies, but *some* of the cash gets to the artists – which is more than can be said of P2P file sharing. Piracy sucks.)

  • Peter:

    I’ve said it before–where subscriptions should compete is with satellite/terrestrial radio–not music stores.

    The concept that I would pay a monthly fee in order to listen to my favorite music is silly. However, the concept that I would pay a monthly fee in order to listen to someone else’s favorite music isn’t necessarily silly. There are plenty of satellite radio customers who do just that–shell out $12.95 a month.

    The concept is simple and iTunes Store already has most of it in iMixes. You could subscribe to an iMix and it would download all the music in the iMix. As the iMix changes, music will be added/deleted from your iPod–just like how radio stations work. No commercials (unlike terrestrial radio), pause/rewind/fast forward/skip (unlike satellite radio). DJ Macalope could be programming music for all his raving Mac fanatic fans! Word up!

    Obviously, the labels would get in on this–“Subscribe to the Sony/BMG iMix for the latest music from Sony/BMG.” Clubs would be on this like mad as well–“Subscribe to the Club Tech Noir iMix and visit us Saturday Night!” Independent DJs would use this for promotion as well. Heck, you might even see radio stations get into the mix (pun intended)…

    And, yes, if I like a song, I might even buy it. Ideally, Apple would offer something like one free song per month or something like that to subscribers.

  • Hans:


    The problem is with people like me, who are not like you. I buy, in a typical year, less than 1 CD. Yes, I said year. When I was in my teens, and in my early 20’s, I bought more, but by now, it’s about one CD a year. How does a subscription make sense for me?

    The other side is, if I buy a CD, anyone in my family can listen to it. But I would need a subscription for every member of my family if I had a subscription service (with iTunes, I’d need to buy a separate copy for every member in my family). How does a subscription make sense for me, again?

  • The Macalope has only made it through half of last week’s MacBreak Weekly (featuring the first commenter) so far, but one of the things he took note of was the point made by one of the not-Merlins that in the cases where the recording industry has made Apple sell songs as entire albums, those songs are often not available at all through the subscription model.

    This is a perfect example of why the Macalope believes the purchase model is inherently better. The subscription model puts more control in the hands of the recording industry and less in the hands of the customer. The Macalope does not want to shell out $240 a year and suddenly find a couple of years down the road that Universal doesn’t like Apple anymore and a large portion of his music suddenly becomes unavailable unless he buys a Zune or something. That’s a perfectly plausible scenario.

    Now, if you buy a whole crapload of music every month, it might be worth the risk to you. It’s not to the Macalope.

  • Mitch:

    Small note about your point that you would have to buy a song again for everyone in the family: iTunes allows up to 5 computers to be registered to the same iTunes account, so you could easily share the music you bought with other people to play it.

  • IMHO the extorsion, I mean subscription, model sucks. I hate it on my cell phone and I hate it even more on my music. I prefer to buy the plastic and rip it myself. Of course I have bought the odd CD from iTunes on a whim only to later think, why didn’t I get off my ass go to HMV.

  • Rob:

    My question relates to charts…

    How, under a subscription scheme, will anybody be able to verify download stats to create charts? At least with selling each song, they should be able to verify each song sold with a financial transaction. Without a transaction to reconcile against, could the record labels could fudge the numbers easier than without selling each song/album?

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