iTunes Pass: A Musical Grab Bag for Superfans


Apple’s all about introducing things today. First, there was the Safari 4 Public Beta, which fellow TAB writer David Appleyard covered at length. But quietly coming in under the shadow of that big announcement is the arrival of the new iTunes Pass, a service that allows users access to early and unique content from their favorite artists. The service is sort of like an extension to the pre-order bonuses Apple normally offers for highly anticipated record releases (i.e. buy the album, get an exclusive single before it comes out).

The iTunes Pass, at least the one for Depeche Mode that’s currently available, does indeed get the purchaser the artist’s newest album on its release date, plus a couple of exclusive tracks in the meantime. With the Depeche Mode package, named after their upcoming CD, “Sounds of the Universe,” customers also receive a number of unspecified singles, remixes, videos, and other bonus content from now until after the CD’s release, over a period of 15 weeks. Basically, it’s a $18.99 package that includes the album and a premium content subscription.

I like the idea of a staggered release for said content, since it gives the whole thing the air of a real release “event,” instead of just a special edition complete with a bonus disc/DVD. But at almost twice the price tag of the CD alone, is iTunes Pass worth it? If you’re a huge Depeche Mode fan, then maybe. This is clearly a campaign targeted at getting extra revenue out of those people who’re already guaranteed to put down money in the first place. Who but a true devotee would be willing to part with almost 100 percent more for miscellaneous content, the specific nature of which is to be revealed later?

It is nice to see EMI looking at creative ways to bolster declining record sales, especially when the solution they come up with is based around the idea of bringing more content to dedicated fans. I’d much rather the record companies try to get more by rewarding fans who are paying, than by going on a witch hunt for those who aren’t.

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