Posted by: Peter Burrows on December 18, 2007
I just read through the 41 comments on our recent story about the opportunities for music subscription services like Rhapsody, Napster and Yahoo. Turns out 18 of you adore this approach, and think its a matter of time before others figure out what a good value it is. But 17 of you say prefer to own your music, a la iTunes, and can’t imagine paying a monthly fee for music you’ll never listen to. And oh yes, a number in the anti-subscription group just want me to stop writing about the topic. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!! Enough with this subscription crap!,” commented D9. “Over and over and over, you try to state how it’s the way of the future. You can theorize about it, you can justify it, heck you can even try to dream it like this article does but the bottom line is PEOPLE ARE NOT BUYING SUBSCRIPTIONS! Simply put, people don’t want to rent music.”
Sorry, D9, I’m not giving up the ship. More after the break.
One thing that's notable about the comments is the consistent difference in the perspective of the writers. Almost all of the comments in favor of subscriptions came from people who use and love this approach. They're speaking from actual experience. But I didn't get the sense that any of the people on the con side had ever tried a subscription. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you seem to be against the notion, not the reality.
To me, it illustrates the basic challenge for music subscription service providers: marketing. They haven't come close to figuring out how to highlight the advantages of their approach. Rather, they've been creamed by Apple, which has defined the distinction as "rent versus own." Hey, I don't want to pay anyone $15 a month for music I don't listen to. But having the ability to hear what I want, when and where I want it, has advantages that go far beyond the simple question of how I pay.
So here's my challenge, subscription fans: how would you market your favorite service? If you've had success in convincing friends or family to give it a try, how did you do it? If you had a $75 million marketing budget (which is roughly what the new Rhapsody plans to spend each year), how would you spend it? So send us your ideas for tag-lines, ads and promotional campaigns. Evidently, these folks need your help.