Is there a future for subscription music services?

“once people realize that they can consume unlimited music for the same price, they begin exploring related songs and bands, checking out recommendations from friends that they never would have bothered with otherwise, and so on.”

Tim Quirk, VP of music programming for Rhapsody

It’s a nice thought but it hasn’t happened yet and it’s not likely to happen in the future unless there’s some real changes made in how subscription services are marketed to consumers. You’ve heard me on this before. Up until now there were only two models for music, the free and ad supported stuff on radio or music you bought or owned. Subscription services change all that in a new way. While consumers “rent” content all the time from theaters, cable companies, netflix etc, there’s also a lot of other stuff sold on dvd. This is not binary, rent or buy. It’s going to be both side by side but the first step to making this mainstream is to educate and evangelize the market. Rhapsody hasn’t done that yet and until they do few folks will ever discover the benefits of the service. Unless someone makes this happen sooner as opposed to later, it’s hard to see the long term future for these types of services ever capturing any real share of the mass market. Of course, there’s always the rumor that Apple might get into this game. One thing’s for sure, Apple entering the market would solve the consumer education issue. Of course, that might not be the result REAL is looking for here.

One response to “Is there a future for subscription music services?

  1. I think there is a chance! In the long term, when most people realize that “ownership” of a digital good isn´t necessary/useful anymore, when we are finally in the “age of access” (see Jeremy Rifkins book “Age of Access” and Kevin Kellys article http://digitalwaveriding.wordpress.com/2009/01/22/access-is-better-than-ownership/), when cloud computing is an “accepted” thing, than we will have just two models left: The ad-supported and the “premium” subscription model. The later will be bundled in many cases with hardware or ISP contracts et cetera.

    Popular subscription models, combined with ad-supported models could solve many problems for the industry much faster than any discussions about a “cultural” flatrate… or any law suit campaign against ISPs. This would take years…

    So… as you wrote… we are waiting for Apple, we are waiting for the music industry and artists to evangelize these kind of subscription services, we are waiting for the collecting societys to become “realistic” with their requirements.

    Just a thought…

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