I seem to be in the minority when it comes to supporting the subscription music model. Rhapsody, Yahoo Music, Napster, and anybody else out there offering a subscription music service – here are a few things that you can do to get more people to accept this model…
1) Make it easy for me to export my library and meta data and transfer my library from one service to another. If you’ve ever used a music subscription service such as Rhapsody, you know that you end up spending a lot of time building up your library of preferred albums, artists, tracks, etc. You start with everything that you already own, then move on to the stuff that you sort of liked but never bothered to buy. And then you start adding all of the new music that you hear about from week to week. You invest even more time in building up playlists. Over time you end up investing many hours building up your music meta data and this is the single biggest reason why you wouldn’t switch from one music service to another (or stop paying a subscription altogether). If I decide to switch from one service to another – e.g. switch from Rhapsody to Yahoo Music – I don’t want to start all over again from scratch. I think this is the #1 reason why people don’t sign on with a subscription music service. Why pay a monthly fee for music if you are going to lose a record of all of that music when you decide to stop paying for that music subscription? If you let me export my music library and meta data (playlists, favorite tracks, etc.), that would soften the blow. That record of your musical preferences and listening habits is almost as important as the music itself (just ask Anil Dash). I would even be willing to pay you a reasonable fee if you allowed me to transfer my music catalog from one subscription music service to another. Will this result in more churn? Probably. But think of all of the new customers that you will attract if you offer this type of music portability.
2) Make it easier to build up my music library. Allow me to upload my iTunes XML library file. Whatever you can match should be automatically added to my library. Or let me plug in my last.fm ID and tell me how many albums, artists, tracks, etc. you were able to match. You should allow me to do this as part of the sign-up process. If you were only able to match 30% of my library then I probably won’t sign on. If I see that your catalog is a close match to my catalog (e.g. over 80%) then I’ll probably sign on with you.
3) Make it easier for me to share my music. One of the greatest pleasures of music is sharing it with others. Loaning a CD to someone. Burning a mix CD for someone. Back in the day, making a mix tape for someone. If I’m paying for a subscription music service I want to be able to do the same type of thing. Let me post a 15-song playlist on my blog. Let me email a link to a playlist to 10 people. Let me pay you an extra $1 per month to increase my sharing “quota”. Who knows, maybe some of the people that I’m sharing my music with will become your next customer.
4) Integrate with other services. Take YottaMusic’s lead and let me scrobble my music listening history to services such as last.fm. Sign a deal with Pandora so that I can listen to a track on Pandora and add that track to my Rhapsody library. I might even be willing to pay a premium for these types of integrations.
5) Make my music subscription music available everywhere – on my home stereo, on my mobile device, in the car, etc. And don’t charge me a premium for receiving my music through these other delivery channels. If I’m already paying a monthly fee for receiving a subscription music service on my computer, there is very little chance that I’ll pay an additional monthly fee to receive this music on a mobile device. Rhapsody is going in the right direction with this (it’s available on Sonos and it will soon be available on TiVo) but they need to stop charging extra for accessing the service on mobile devices.