Blog Post

Subscription plans could be coming to iTunes

The Financial Times and other sites are reporting that Apple is mulling a subscription plan that would allow users to download unlimited songs to their iPod or iPhone. To get unlimited downloads, you would presumably have to pay a higher premium when you purchase the device, but then you would have the ability to download any songs or albums from the entire iTunes music library. The subscription would probably be non-transferrable, so if you upgraded your device you would have to pay another premium.

Several other online music services, like Napster, have subscription models where you pay a monthly or annual fee for access to their downloads. If you stop paying the recurring subscription fee, your downloads will no longer work.

Steve Jobs has stood by the current business model of the iTunes music store, but it’s clear with the new iTunes Movie Rentals that they are interested in exploring other business models. Clearly not everyone wants to “own” their digital content.

I’m not sure I would go for this model. I buy maybe 1-2 albums a month, but I upgrade my device regularly. I’ve had 3 iPhones since June, for instance. I don’t mind paying $1 per song and having the ability to burn CD’s and keep my music forever. I listen to my music over and over again, and usually only buy a song or album when I know I like it.

Would you pay a premium to be able to download unlimited songs and albums from iTunes?

11 Responses to “Subscription plans could be coming to iTunes”

  1. Westport

    I am not sure why there is even an argument about subscription or not. It’s not like Apple will need to abolish its pay per song model in order to introduce subscriptions. It would just be another choice. Those of us, like sjmills, who work for months at a time at the South Pole can keep paying 99cents per song and those of us who like to listen to a new album every other day can use a subscription. I don’t use apple specifically because they don’t offer a subscription service even though I know they have the best hardware and software. If they want my business they need to come my way. I hope they do.

  2. gmliniowa

    I typically use a combination of subscription and purchased music. I have subscribed to Rhapsody for 2+years and can’t imagine getting rid of it. I will often download subscription tracks to my MP3, and if I truly love it, I may end up purchasing it so I can burn and make compilations (although I could do this without by setting up playlists on the MP3). And, Rhapsody gives you a discount on purchased music when you’re a subscriber ($0.89 per track).

    Apple charging a premium on their players for subscription is stupid. I agree with that. Rhapsody supports a wide range of MP3 players. Now, it may be that the players are baking in a premium to allow subscriptions, but I doubt it since most of the hardware manufacturers (iRiver, Philips, etc.) aren’t in the business of selling the digital content.

    I see subscription service as a great option for users who have smaller capacity devices (maybe 2GB and less) and who’s tastes are somewhat fickle.

    Now if you’re an infrequent purchaser and you don’t look for new music frequently, then the subscription service probably isn’t cost-effective for you.

  3. sjmills

    Westport, comparing music subscriptions to TiVo is ridiculous. They are nothing alike.

    What happens if a subscriber happens to be out in the middle of nowhere for a long camping trip or is working for months at the South Pole and their subscription runs out? No more music for you. See? Subscriptions are dumb.

  4. Westport

    The subscription model is to music is what Tivo did for TV. It opens up a whole new experience. My suggestion is you try a subscription service for a month or two. You will realize that it blows paying 99 cents per track away. I have a 26,000 song database and since I have signed up for subscription, I have tapped into it maybe once or twice. I listen to artists I have never heard of all the time. By the time most people have decided on which songs to buy, I have downloaded three albums and am already on my way. Someday you will all understand that you don’t really own anything anyway. I love subscription and will never go back. I really hope apple comes my way. For now, I am a rhapsody fanatic.

  5. @ken: But that’s the flaw with the subscription model. If you have to pay $15-20 a month, FOREVER if you want to listen to this selection of songs. Your wife’s $60 binge on 80’s music would cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars if she wanted to keep listening to those songs.

    With DRM music you certainly have more freedom than you do with a subscription model.

  6. sjmills

    You might now “own” the rights to the song, but you sure as hell own the song file and will be able to play it for the rest of your life, unlike a subscription-based song which will stop playing when you stop paying the subscription fees. See? That’s dumb.

  7. Ken Robertson

    I prefer the subscription model. I’d rather spend $15-20 and listen to anything, anytime, rather than having to spend $1 to listen to some song I might just listen to once or twice… or my wife going on a $60 spending spree for 80s music.

    Additionally, you’re under an illusion if you think you own those songs. Unless you’re buying DRM free, you don’t own anything.

  8. The $100 premium on iPods is just ridiculous, that would double the price of a iPod shuffle. If this only allows downloading through the iTunes WiFi music store then people just won’t go for it. I for one like to have my music on my computer as well as my portable player. There are other online music services that offer monthly subscriptions like Napster, Rhapsody and Zune Marketplace, that have hardly cut into iTunes’ market share.

  9. sjmills

    I don’t like the idea. Do you lose the ability to listen to all the music you’ve “rented” once you stop paying the subscription? Probably. So, no thanks. Sounds stupid to me.