According to the weblog iLounge.com, Apple is working on a music subscription service like Pandora.
For years, Apple has downplayed such services. Its late CEO Steve Jobs had maintained that users didn’t want to “rent” music, which is basically what happens with music subscription radio. Instead, Apple has always pushed for the model that it (and rival Amazon) uses, in which the user buys a song for a small cost, typically 99 cents, from an online store; typically the iTunes Store or Amazon’s Music Store, for example.
The online music subscription service business hasn’t exactly made many millionaires. According to some estimates, the entire industry accounted for less than $1 billion last year. So why would Apple be interested in such a niche market?
It’s possible that the company sees its iTunes Store model as eventually becoming antiquated and obsolete, with music streaming services like Spotify becoming more and more popular.
(Spotify works in large part much like Apple’s iCloud, by uploading your music [or at least noting your computer’s content, as your music could have already been uploaded by others]. It then streams that content–plus existing songs that others have uploaded–to your computer or mobile device for a fee.)
Apple had already proven in 2003–with its creation of the iTunes Store as a model of purchasing music–that it had considerable clout with the music industry. (In fact, since 2008 the iTunes Store has been “the most popular choice,” according to this Apple press release.) So, if anyone could change the way the music subscription business is run, it’s Apple.
One change that’s already been reported is that unlike Pandora, which pays a royalty rate for each song to each respective music (formerly, record) company, Apple is working directly with the music industry to secure licensing arrangements, likely similar to the ones they’ve established with the iTunes Store.
All of which also means that this rumored service isn’t something that’s going to be introduced in the immediate future, as it takes time to work out all the potential legal issues.
In this model, perhaps, Apple would charge its users a yearly or monthly fee for the service, and each participating music company would receive a percentage of that fee, after Apple’s cut.
I’m personally not a big fan of such subscription services. I’ve used Pandora, Slacker and Spotify (and must confess that of all of them I like Pandora the best for playing the music I want to hear). Unfortunately, by their very nature all music subscription companies are huge bandwidth hogs, which can slow down your mobile device or computer–and can really eat up streaming data very quickly, which is a big concern if you’re on a limited data plan.
What do YOU think? If Apple were to introduce a music subscription service similar to Pandora’s, would you sign up for it?