If It’s August, It Must Be Time For People To Get All Hot And Bothered Over iTunes-Related Rumors

Aug 21st, 2008 // 11 Comments

jobslego.jpgLike the Timex Social Club, I spend a lot of time lamenting the rumors that surround me every day. How do they get started? And where do they get crazy? In Truthmongerer, I’ll try to suss out the kernels of truth in the rumors that are taking up airspace in gossip columns, blogs, and our tips inbox.

THE RUMOR: iTunes is going to launch a subscription site called iTunes Unlimited as soon as October. And access to as many downloads as you like will only cost $129.99 for the whole year!

TRUTH THRESHOLD: 7.5%.

LIKELY TRUTHS: Before we get into that, let’s outline the specs of the new service, according to a tipster who’s been spamming as many sites as he can with the details:

-256 Kbps music; highest quality digital music subscription service ever
-50% of U.S. store available for iTunes Unlimited at launch, U.S.-only launch
-Available through iTunes or retail box a la MobileMe, funds applied through iTunes gift cards cannot be used towards subscription purchase
-$129.99 stand-alone or $179.99 with MobileMe, current MobileMe subscribers can add iTunes Unlimited for $99.99
-One-year subscription period
-Current a la carte options unchanged
-When signed in to subscription account, “Buy” is “Get”
-”Download and Play throughout iTunes Unlimited Subscription” or “Buy and Keep”
-”Buy and Keep” option available for downloaded subscription songs, purchased version replaces subscription version
- Late October launch with iTunes 7.8

It reads like Mac fanboy fan fiction, really.

LIKELY FALSEHOODS: Would the major labels actually be OK with giving people unfettered access to music for the low price of 131 single-song downloads–via iTunes, no less? Wouldn’t the Big Four be more likely to head to eMusic first, or develop such a service with Amazon, given their fractious relationship with Apple and tendencies toward acting like spoiled children? Would iTunes really launch such a high-profile service with only 50% of its inventory available, thus further confusing and angering users who already feel burned by the whole MobileMe debacle? And isn’t Steve Jobs a little too market-aware to foolishly think that people will start caring about subscription services simply because it’s branded with the Apple logo?

I think all of those questions can be answered with a huge “No.” (In a tasteful font, of course.) And Silicon Alley Insider quizzed a few music executives about the possibility of “iTunes Unlimited” coming to pass, and they all said they know nothing about it. I think this thing is not a likely proposition anytime soon. But who knows, maybe Apple will change the “Buy” button on iTunes to a “Get” one across the board. Anything to reel in cash from the BitTerrorists who aren’t all that bright, right?

Rumored iTunes Music Subscription [Listening Post]
Music Subscriptions Coming To iTunes (AAPL) Next Month? Nope [Silicon Alley Insider]

  1. Dead Air ummm Dead Air

    I shudder to think of Mac Fanboy Slash Fiction.

  2. Captain Wrong

    Saw this earlier on a Mac Fanboy site and had the same thoughts as you. I think your points are dead on, especially when you look at the still contentious relationship between the majors and jobs. It just doesn’t make any sense.

  3. MayhemintheHood

    I heard a rumor that Idolator was going to start charging people for coming onto the site, as well as starting it’s own record label.

  4. KrAzy Che3To

    “iTunes gift cards cannot be used towards subscription purchase”

    They should, then you could ask for a few “Gift cards” to subscribe to iTunes all year and get free music!!

    Oh wait, I can do that already without iTunes.. or asking for gift cards.. wait doesn’t this bring us back to “downloading mp3s is killing the industry” why don’t they GIVE us options like this??

    Even a monthly fee with so many songs (say 15 songs for 10 bucks) I don’t see who wouldn’t subscribe to that, or is that not making them enough money? psshh screw iTunes back to torrents/rapidshare I go..

  5. Halfwit

    I don’t have any sources to prove or disprove this, but I would give a slightly higher truth threshold. The price is low, but not obscenely so (Zune is ~$195 for the year, but Napster to Go was ~$161 I think).

    Something like emusic would never be an option, because they (to date, at least) are committed to an ownership model that would make the revenue per song too small for major labels.

    The (un)popularity of subscription services is a bit unfair, since no subscription service has been compatible with the dominant device. I know a few people who have loved the IDEA of a subscription service, but would never try one because it doesn’t work with their iPod.

  6. Maura Johnston

    @Halfwit: but according to this, itunes’ subscription model is all about ownership, as well. and emusic is what, $10 a month? that’s $120 a year — not too much less than this proposed prince.

  7. Maura Johnston

    * price.

  8. scarletvirtue

    @Dead Air ummm Dead Air: I’m scared now. Thanks for putting that horrid thought into my head!

  9. Halfwit

    @Maura Johnston: I didn’t read the source article, but the info you highlighted suggested that they would (supposedly) distinguish between “Download and Play” (traditional subscription model) and “Buy and Keep”. “Download and Play” wouldn’t have any ownership rights (e.g: CD burning).

    For example, I can currently download songs through Zune Marketplace as part of my membership… if I want to actually own a song, I can also choose to then buy it for cash (or points, or whatever the hell they’re doing today).

    The truth threshold is still low, though, because I think Napster has clearly demonstrated that you really can’t go much below $15 and still clear a profit. Every iteration of this type of plan has been a loss leader for the hardware – being #1, I don’t think Apple really needs to offer consumers any more incentive to try their product.

  10. DeeW

    @Maura Johnston: Ownership at that low price?! No way! I’d love to see it happen, but I agree with you that there’s little chance that such a deal is likely. If iTunes were to offer a subscription, then it’d be full of DRM like the other services. (And rightfully, so.)

    I’m still waiting for Apple to “borrow” the song sharing feature from Zune. It’d be very useful on a dominant player. And according to this patent, it may be just around the corner.

    Check out this article, especially the last paragraph:
    [arstechnica.com]

  11. cheesebubble

    That a truth threshold of 7.5% is reached surprises me. But it sounds too good to be true. If anything close to this ever happens, then I will have to retreat from life and spend 365 days amassing everything!

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