Apple considers unlimited music model

20 Mar 2008

Apple is said to be in talks with the major record companies to formulate an all-access, free music service for some of its music devices in conjunction with the iTunes music store.

While Apple itself has not commented officially on this service, industry insiders say the music model could take two forms: a per month subscription service or a once-off premium payment which would offering unlimited free music and would be locked in to the device it was purchased with.

This new service would mean Apple’s digital music strategy is going in the new direction of device tie-ins, not unlike Nokia’s ‘music for everyone’ model.

While Apple and most other digital music vendors have now turned away from the DRM (digital rights management) model, this new subscription service will still be able to prevent music privacy by locking the music into the device, be it iPod or iPhone.

Apple has always been savvy when it comes to negotiating its slice of the digital music industry and this unlimited music deal appears to be no different as it is said to be offering record companies US$20 per music device sold, according to the Financial Times website.

In comparison, Nokia is understood to be giving music companies US$80 per music handset sold, in exchange for negotiating the ‘comes with music’ deal, which will see buyers of a Nokia handset receiving a year’s worth of free music from the catalogues of these record companies.

While the Nokia model will allow users to keep their music if they choose not to renew their subscription at the end of the year, it is understood Apple is only allowing subscribers to keep between 40 and 50 tracks per year, which they can hold on to whether or not they continue with their iTunes subscription.

If a subscription service for an Apple music device goes ahead, it will be for the iPhone only as this is the only Apple device already tied into a monthly billing process. However, if the subscription is not locked to a device but rather to a user account within iTunes, it is not clear how Apple will manage user access to the music, including sharing amongst devices.

By Marie Boran