Why Music Subscriptions Make Less Sense Than Ever…


As Larry just posted, Apple actually approved the Rhapsody app for streaming music if you have a RhapsodyTo Go account. So now we have RhapsodyToGo available in the US and Spotify available in much of Europe. That’s awesome, and a bit of a surprise but still… I don’t quite get it.

Rhapsody to Go is $15 a month. That comes down to $180 a year or $360 over the contract-life of the iPhone. (As if iPhone ownership weren’t costly enough already.) Worst of all at the end of that year you own NOTHING!

Contrast that to the Simplify Music app at $5.99 and the whole “rent your music” concept kind of falls apart. Here’s why…


Having digitized Elana’s and my CD collection when we first met and then going on some CD buying binges we have over 11,000 songs in our iTunes library’s. That means there is almost always something to listen to no matter what my mood. Good start.


I share libraries with Larry thanks to Simplify. That gives me another 1900 songs that I can stream to my Mac or iPhone. So we are up to 12,900 songs.

Wayne and I share libraries too. Add another 2,048 songs for a total of 14,948.

Travis’ library currently has 9177 songs in it which brings the total to 24,125.

Simplify Media1.png

So while there is some degree of overlap in the songs I ALREADY have access to over 20,000 songs and it cost me just  $5.99 for the app. And here is the best thing… I can still invite 23 MORE friends to share my library and request access to theirs.

Conservatively estimating the size of those additional libraries would bring us to over 100,000 songs that are all accessible to stream after a one time purchase of $5.99. No, that might not give me immediate access to brand new music but I could STILL buy a new album each month and be ahead of the game.

Bottom line… the “rent you music” model always had flaws but with streaming and sharing services like Simplify it makes less sense than ever.

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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.

6 Comments on "Why Music Subscriptions Make Less Sense Than Ever…"

  1. For a certain type of listener I still think there is a rationale – pop music, transient tastes, basically likes stuff on radio and wants it around for a while then gone forever.

    I’ve read about folks like that … but never met any 😉

  2. Not sure how well it relates (and I’m sure I’ll get flamed for not being on the Apple bandwagon 🙂 ), but the Zune Pass runs $15/month and you keep 10 tracks each month. Still somewhat of a rent-to-own model, but you do end up with something at the end of the month if you want.

    Neither subscriptions nor streaming are for everyone, but for my money, I’d probably lean towards the Pass just because I have a Zune and it would make more sense for me at this time.

  3. paschott- Flamed no way.

    Not only because (hopefully) a higher level of gear-conversing takes place here on GD but because THAT is an awesome model. I recall hearing about it when it initially launched but totally forgot about it. A model like that would make me consider an iTunes subscription!

  4. I’m going to have to agree with paschott. Yes, if you have a large CD collection to begin with, subscriptions may not make much sense. But consider this: you and Elana have about 12000 songs. Average out large compilations and small ones, let’s say there are 12 songs per cd, making 1000 CDs.

    If someone were to want to go out and start a similarly-sized collection, that would be a lot of money right there. Even if you were to buy all of them them used (call it $2 a CD), that’s an outlay of $2000! I haven’t factored sales tax or VAT into that yet, but that’s ok. Between you and your friends, it goes up to around $4000. Now, if you suggest selling the CDs after ripping them, then you might as well go ahead and fire up BitTorrent, Limewire, or your other favorite file sharing software.

    Going the Amazon/iTunes/Rhapsody/Zune store route, let’s say out of those 12000 songs, there were only 1000 that you really liked. At a dollar per song, that’s still $1000!

    What exactly does $1000 get you in terms of subscription services? Well, it would give you about 67 months of Rhapsody or Zune service (remember, you also get 67*10 = 670 songs to keep on Zune); double that for your and Elana’s collection = 10 YEARS.

    But wait, why stop at Rhapsody? Pandora’s and Last.fm subscription services (which lets you have unlimited skips) are $3/month each. That’s more than 25 YEARS of service! True, rates can go up, but still… geez. Pandora and Last.fm don’t let you do offline listening? Also true. However, Slacker Radio does; they’re $4/month. That’ll get you more than 20 years of time there, and they have all sorts of neat mixes and recommendation tools. And if you like, you can even subscribe to BOTH services and still get 10 years of music! Not 12000 or 24000 songs, or even 25*(average number of unduplicated songs between all your friends) – but MILLIONS.

    When you terminate the service, you’re left with no music? Yes – but at $3-4, why would you want to stop? It’s the cost of buying a new CD every 3 or 4 months, or one used one each month! I’m plenty happy to pay $3/mo to Pandora, especially since you get 192kbps streams. So, yes, if you were already saddled by large amounts of plastic or vinyl, subscription services might not hold much for you – if you never intend to spend another dime on music again and never want to listen to another new song.

    PS: If Simplify got really popular all of sudden, do you really think the RIAAs of the world wouldn’t say a word (not saying they would have merit, but that they would try to stymie the company)?

  5. eMusic does something similar, but their selection is really lousy – I got 50 free downloads for a music survey I did and had a hard time using them all in time. Zune store is much better!

  6. All great points. Btw I do have a PandoraOne account. (I tend to think of Pandora and Slacker differently.). Personally I like that Zune plan a lot! (Either that or finding friends with huge itunes collections.) 🙂

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