• iTunes to The Rescue?

    Image via Apple

    For many of us, iTunes is the ultimate source of escape and utter bliss. But for as dependent as we are on iTunes, the music industry itself may soon have to depend on it too.

    For survival, that is.

    With millions of music lovers turning to the digital sphere rather than a physical storefront to get the music they want, the recording industry has been bleeding money over what now amounts to a fairly extended period of time. As a result, analysts like Matt Rosoff from CNET think the record industry better hope and pray that Apple has a subscription service in the works. Such a service may, in fact, be the only way the record biz can compensate for myriad losses elsewhere.
    The record industry better hope that Wednesday's Apple announcement is big news--pre-cut ringtones, a new digital album format, perhaps the addition of recordings from some obscure 1960s rock band who were apparently pretty good. According to an analysis in today's Billboard Online, the usual summer slump in digital download sales is more pronounced this year, and ringtone sales continue their steep decline. For an industry that's counting on digital to make up for declines in CD sales, that's very unwelcome news.
    It's no secret that subscription-based music makes for a horrible business solution. As illustrated by past failures elsewhere, there are many reasons for Apple to completely retire the idea (assuming they had it to begin with). Yet, if the Beatles are coming to iTunes, and an upgrade to the popular music player is on tap, perhaps Apple could get away with some form of limited subscription-based music service.

    Imagine if Apple combined a new subscription service with the iTunes Genius function, which is conceptually similar to Pandora but currently limited to your existing music collection. (It also recommends songs in the iTunes store, but you have to buy them individually, which kind of ruins the delightful-surprise factor.) How much would you pay for that? Now multiply that by some percentage--20 percent might be reasonable--of present and future iPhone and iPod Touch users, and suddenly you're talking about meaningful annual revenue.
    If there was ever a viable time to introduce such a service, one could argue that time is now. Although I won't go so far, some speculate that Apple may already have a subscription package in the works and ready for unveiling today. That's highly unlikely in my book. But it could be a development in the very near future. As Rosoff notes in his commentary, Steve Jobs has long held the view that Apple customers want to "own rather than rent music." But if Jobs can change his mind about a video iPod (an idea he was once against), perhaps a subscription based music service would not only be a plausible endeavor for Apple, but a much needed lifeline to the recording industry that, after all, does supply us with the music we enjoy through the heavenly portal known as iTunes.

    The real question, however, is this: Would you actually pay for such a service?
    This article was originally published in forum thread: iTunes to The Rescue? started by Michael Essany View original post
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