Microsoft Makes Zune Pass Rent To Own; Subscribers Get 10 Tracks A Month For Keeps

imageMicrosoft (NSDQ: MSFT) just added some lagniappe to its Zune Pass music subscription: effective now, 10 tracks a month can be downloaded for keeps. It’s a nice gesture for subscribers — I am one so can attest to that — but it’s also a very real PR effort to goose interest in the subscription model. To expand the $14.99 monthly subscription, the company crafted new payment agreements with all four majors — EMI, *Sony*, *Warner Music Group*, and Universal Music Group — and indie distributors INgrooves, Independent Online Distribution Alliance and *The Orchard*. Microsoft values the tracks at approximately $10 (not in the confusing conceit of Zune Marketplace points), which would take the cost of the actual subscription to about $5 a month for those who make all the permanent downloads.

Liner notes: The 10 permanent tracks can be burned to CD or moved to other devices even after the subscription ends. The Zune Pass currently allows subscription sharing between three PCs and three Zunes. An updated version of Zune’s software started distribution Tuesday. *Sony* BMG and UMG also agreed to provide DRM-free MP3s, joining EMI, WMG and some of the indie labels. Microsoft says Zune’s library soon will offer 90 percent of its music as MP3s.

Billboard: “To make the offer, the Zune team had to rework its existing licensing deals with labels so that it now provides a certain percentage of the Zune Pass subscription fee to all labels based on market share, and then allocates a separate payment to each label based on what music is downloaded for good.”

First look/listen — not: Signing into Zune just now required accepting a new terms of service in an unnecessarily complicated multi-screen process. So far, I can’t tell how I would know this option is supposed to be available — and I can’t figure out how to make it work. For instance, when I add a song to the cart, then look at the cart, it’s empty. Another variation brings up an error message. I’ll try again in the morning.