Microsoft, whose Zune player has never found a foothold against Apple’s iPod behemoth despite reinventing itself into something cuter and less bloggy, has yet again changed the way it sells and plays music. Although how much of a change this new model is depends on how much of a future you think the whole “subscription model” for music has. Man, those guys are gonna ride that horse to the bitter end, despite overwhelming evidence that consumers don’t seem to care about subscription services, no matter how great a deal they are. And with the development of streaming radio stations on the iPhone, why pick up a Zune with a subscription service? People just want to own stuff if they are going to pay for it. Period. It’s why car leasing and house renting have always rubbed me the wrong way: If I’m putting in the money for something, I want to walk away with it.
To be fair to M$, the deal’s not so bad, and the new deal does make concessions to the “we want to own it” crowd. The Zune Pass is $14.99 a month and users get to keep 10 MP3s forever, even if the subscription eventually gets dumped. That’s right, MP3s and not horrific WMA files. IODA and The Orchard are on board as distributors, along with all of the majors, so there should be enough genrew to go around. (Side note: I remain flabbergasted by how many hoops you have to jump through just to sell a major label’s digital product. The majors never had this kind of power over distribution when it was a matter of selling physical product. If you wanted to sell a CD, you just got it from a distributor and sold it, right? Why does everybody have to enter into these treaties with them now? Perhaps this is the price we pay for the supposed convenience of musical noncorporeality.)