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 Friday, 10 December 2010
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Apparently music subscription services are struggling to gain traction

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/more-itunes-alternatives-can-a-subscription-music-service-ever-succeed/2770?tag=nl.e539

I can understand that, because I was an anti-digital-music person for a long time. My thought was that I had no reason to pay for a music subscription when radio was free.

Of course radio isn’t free, and over time (as I’ve gotten older?) I find the DJ dialog and commercials on radio to be increasingly annoying. To the point that radio costs way too much – there’s less music than drivel and I just can’t take it.

The other alternative is to buy CDs, rip them and create your own collection. That way you “own” the music. And certainly compared to buying digital MP3s it is better to buy the CD. I’ve “purchased” digital music several times over the years, and several times I’ve had the originating company go out of business and so the DRM locked me out of my “purchase”. And I’ve had hard drive failures, and so lost my “purchase”.

Sure, a CD can get scratched, but if you buy a CD, rip it and then only use the digital copy, you always have the pristine master source, even in the case of hard drive failure.

However, a CD costs around $12, and zune.net costs $15/mo. So I can buy around 12-13 CDs each year, or I can spend the same money to have access to a few hundred thousand songs. Even over my entire lifetime, at 12 CDs per year I’ll never get a collection the size I have access to via zune.net.

So radio is out (because it just sucks), and buying CDs isn’t really cost-effective.

But there are streaming services like pandora and last.fm and others. They are free, or at least cheaper than zune.net, so why not use them?

I used to use pandora, but it started getting pretty flaky with its song selections. Lately I’ve been using last.fm because they came with my xbox gold subscription (and zune.net didn’t until recently). I like last.fm, they do a good job and they stream to my xbox and my Windows Phone 7.

However, streaming services don’t work when I’m on an airplane, in a hotel (you never get good bandwidth in a hotel), in northern Minnesota camping or fishing, etc. Basically they are for city people who don’t travel, not for people like me who travel and/or spend a lot of time in rural areas.

So how does zune.net differ from things like radio, CDs or streaming services?

For about $15/mo you get this:

  1. Access to several hundred thousand songs via streaming
  2. 10 free purchases (DRM free) each month (basically I get to “buy” for free almost an entire album every month)
  3. Smart DJ, which does what pandora and last.fm do: creating a themed “radio station” drawing music from my personal library plus the entire zune library (those hundreds of thousands of songs)
  4. The ability to sync Smart DJ playlists to my zune device or Windows Phone – so that music is available when I’m entirely offline

So think about this. For just over the price of a CD I get (more or less) a CD’s worth of music I actually own each month. I figure that’s $10 of the $15 covered each month right there.

But more importantly, for my other $5/mo I get unlimited streaming just like pandora or last.fm – and in a form that works when I’m entirely offline like on an airplane or sitting on a lakeshore in far northern Minnesota where there’s no cell coverage, much less Internet.

(it is this pure offline feature that even iTunes doesn’t have – and why zune.net is (for me) the ultimate solution)

In the end, yes, I understand the arguments against paying a subscription fee for music. But when compared to the alternatives, it has become clear to me that none of those arguments really hold water. The zune.net service is pretty much the perfect way to consume music.

Windows Phone | WP7 | Xbox | Zune
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