Trandall6’s Blog

Why we need subscription music – Part 2

Posted on: January 20, 2010

Hi this is the second part of a very short series explaining why subscription music could save the music industry, as well as giving us a more enjoyable listening experience. It will now be explained why subscription music has not yet taken off as the primary means that people enjoy music and suggestions for the form a large scale subscription model could take.

Why it has not yet worked

A reason subscription music has not risen from its current status as a niche service is technological constraints. Broadband infrastructure would have to exist to the extent that users could access high quality streaming music in the home. Customers would most probably expect to access the same music with a portable device as well.

However within the next decade these issues could also be resolved. A type of Wi-Fi is currently in development which has a signal range of over one hundred kilometres, rather than 10 metres. Moreover this type of Wi-Fi allows roaming, meaning once the user is out of range of one transmitter they pick up the signal of another, like a cell phone.

Suggestions for the form it could take


If carefully designed, subscription music could offer a similar cultural and economic model as the pay for recordings model of years past. Firstly statistics of what users have listened to could be anonymously recorded. This would allow for Billboard style charts, the popularity of artists could be measured again.

This could also help the artist, as a payment model could be put in place which compensates the artists for what they contribute to the popularity of the system. More listens would equal more money.

I also believe that what music is accessed on a subscription model should completely remain the user’s choice. By this I mean that if the user wants to hear, for example the Dixie Chicks they simply should access that music without being marketed other music through the device or having what they desire be off limits in some fashion. Music should be marketed separately from the subscription service through traditional means such as old media including MTV, RollingStone magazine, radio, etc and new media such as internet, MySpace, etc.


2 Responses to "Why we need subscription music – Part 2"

Are you working on the model you are proposing? I would love to take a look at it if so. My only response would be that music doesn’t have to be paid for, in order for the providers to still make money. It’s just like the basic cable model. You are right about the conditions we’re in, I just think that as long as free is an option, people will take it. With the advertising route it works out for both parties.

Thanks for the comment on my blog. You’ve challenged some of my ideas, too. But really I just agree with you on the subscription model with the only real caveats being the price and the way distribution of funds are decided upon.

1. Price: Most people who DEVOUR rather than casually listen to music are between childhood (broke) and college (mostly broke). A near 20 dollar monthly fee would break a pre-teen or teen, making them turn again to unapproved means of obtaining access to the culture they essentially own by being it’s nearly only means of support. Many college students could afford such a fee but would opt for the old way when it’s a choice between going to a live show, eating out, clothing, ahem.. books and paying such a fee. I think a far more reasonable fee would not only make sense, but would be highly profitable. The people in charge of agreeing to co-operation with this kind of plan would have to be shown in B&W exactly how much money they could make by being reasonable with price vs. expectation of old profits. By making the price low enough combined with the ease of access of iTunes, it would be an absolute winner. I would suggest something that looks like it’s under 10 dollars but is actually pretty close to 10 dollars. Something like 8.98 a month. Almost no parent would balk at it, students would pay it and it could even be an option to have it simply added to your ISP bill or your phone bill. (but not a mandatory tax.. which would strip most of the profits and divert them to administration)

2. Distribution of funds to artists based on popularity/downloads:
A system is already in place for radio and streaming. That would have to be left alone or create huge headaches for artists/copyright holders/songwriters. Like you suggest, it would have to be a third party, in my opinion, NOT related to the systems already in place to compensate artists based on tracking and payment with a predictable habit of ripping off artists and favoring majors in spite of lack of play/interest. Tracking would have to be fair, accurate and not exclusionary. A massive, difficult task that I think would be worth it to push for. The industry has always made a habit of ignoring smaller artists, even when said artist experiences a resurgence in popularity due to nostalgia, inclusion in nostalgic new creations like films or cover versions. Old contracts still in the red in favor of labels/companies would further complicate things due to losses being written off related to failed artists.

Fair counting/tracking would be absolutely essential to assure that a William Doyle is paid his due in the same way that The Beatles are. With the same interest, respect and systems. This concept flies in the face of all the record companies and publishers’ way of doing business from day one. And literally EVERYONE would have to agree without favoritism, concessions or compromises.

This IS the best solution. The problem is someone out there really has to do the math, get everyone in line and most of all get the right people’s attention. I think someone could get everything prepared in advance, all the plans and systems designs, consult with experts and then present the idea to a figurehead/spokesperson. A celebrity maybe, someone with influence and someone with money at stake who would be taking the same risks he or she would be asking everyone else to take.

Considering all of the above, really the most important factor in my opinion is price point. It must be affordable to the very people who will support the culture. Right now, the price for those movers and shakers, kids of influence and curators is FREE. The new price has to be nearly close to that price, but still massively profitable in opposition to the current profits (and legal fees/bad mojo/bad karma). So what are the numbers. And even after all this thought about the industry and what is or isn’t working, do ALL the suits in tall buildings still deserve to get rich in a world of music that doesn’t really need it’s services like it used to?? Promotion, advertising, hype? You betcha. But they still want a distributor’s cut and a cut of an imaginary real-world ITEM made of atoms rather than bits that simply does NOT exist or is a novelty. It’s unrealistic. But tell that to them.

Thanks again for the comment and your writing is great. I’ll be subscribed and reading.

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  • trandall6: Thanks alot for that comment. I had never even considered the potental loss of data which could occur under such a model. Like you said, differnet per
  • indie69: Excellent part 3. You make some great points and bring up ideas that I hadn't thought of before. Different perspectives. The one thing I'd point o
  • indie69: Thanks for the comment on my blog. You've challenged some of my ideas, too. But really I just agree with you on the subscription model with the only r


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