Buy music, or just subscribe?

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

According to a report on Macminute, some online music providers are claiming that subscriptions are the way forwards:

Napster, Yahoo say iTunes is doomed | MacMinute News: Apple rivals say the iTunes Music Store’s 99-cent pricing is the wrong formula for digital music, and that subscription-based models are the future. With the top-of-the-line iPod, “You can fit 10,000 songs on it,” Napster CEO Chris Gorog says. But “to do that would cost you $10,000 if you bought the songs from Apple. With our plan, customers can get 10,000 songs on their device for $180 a year. It’s an enormous value.”

I see two problems with this idea.

Firstly, I want to be able to keep my music, not see it all disappear if I have to drop the subscription for any reason. If you spend $180 on albums, you’ve got around one a month. That’s a good number and you’ve got them for life. You spend $180 on a subscription, then you may have many more songs, but if you pay nothing the following year, you’ve nothing to show for it.

Secondly, people aspire to own, not rent. People move from renting to buying property. When I was a kid people rented their TVs. Now, I don’t know anyone with rental goods. The technology business has a terrible blind spot to models that have been tried and failed in other industries. Music rental will be another example of it.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.