Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wishful Thinking: iTunes subscriptions on 9 September?

It's more or less confirmed that Apple will be hosting one of its events on the 9th of September. The ever-present Tablet rumour mill flared for a bit when this was announced, but it's becoming clear that Teh Steve will not be announcing anything of the sort; instead, we're looking at music-related product announcements. Most probably, refreshed iPods (including an iPod Touch with a camera and microphone, which should delight a few App Store developers) and iTunes 9.

What exactly will be in iTunes 9 is a bit of a mystery; rumours abound of a service called "Cocktail," the details of which are sketchy, though some sources have reported it will aim to promote full album sales at the expense of single track downloads.

Now, this is a bit of a puzzler for me since most studies I have seen show people are very much still in the habit of buying full albums from the iTunes Store and would need little prodding to continue to do so; iTunes already has "album-only" features (so you get some album-only songs, and possibly music videos and digital booklets when you buy a whole album) that seem to do the trick.

What I'm thinking (though, to be honest, mostly hoping) is that Apple will be the first to announce a subscription download service. A recent survey for UK Music by the University of Hertfordshire has shown that consumers would flock to such a service, and I have already talked of Virgin Media's announcement of a similar service, planned for a holiday launch. All that's missing is the agreement of the music labels, and if Apple has proved one thing with iTunes, is that it's good at getting what it wants from them. Perhaps they will beat everyone to the punch, and put streaming services like Last.FM and Spotify out of business in one fell swoop?

I have no inside sources, only a hunch, but going on the quality of most Apple rumours that's better than most, so, you heard it here first: Apple will announce a subscription service on 9 September that will give you the ability to download a set (I'd say unlimited, but that's just pushing my luck) amount of music every month for a fixed fee.

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