My brother-in-law, Matt, is a 'buyer'. He doesn't rent DVDs, he buys them. He has a fairly large DVD collection (maybe 100 or so) and he can watch them whenever he wants, but he limits his DVD purchases to one every other week. I'm a 'renter'. I don't buy DVDs (with a few notable exceptions) I rent them. I probably rent two a week on average. I'd guess about 80% of people fall into the 'renter' category for movies while the rest are the 'buyers'.

However for music, most of us are 'buyers'. We want to own the music. Perhaps we have a more personal attachment to our music and the rental-bond is not strong enough for us and that is why we buy. Or perhaps there just isn't any good way for people to rent music. It's not impossible to rent music. I can go to,VirginDigital or one of the other music subscription service, pay a modest monthly fee and download all of the music I want, at any time. The problem is that the music is tied to my computer. I can't put it on my iPod, I can't listen to it in my car, I can only listen to it when I am sitting at my computer. This has been the biggest barrier to the acceptence of music subscription services - you can't take the music with you. However, things are about to change. This week's Technology Review has an article called Gunning for iTunes that describes how these subscription services are adopting Microsoft's Janus technology. With this DRM technology, music renters will be able to take their rented music with them in their portable devices. Renters won't be chained to their computers while listening to their music. They'll be able to load up their portable music player with their rented songs just like they can with their purchased iTunes songs. As long as their subscription is current and they sync their player at least once a month, they can listen to all of their rented music.

Right now, if I want to legally fill up an iPod with songs purchased from iTunes, it is going to cost me about $10,000. That's way more than I want to pay. However, I'd be quite happy to pay $15 per month to have access to a million song collection that I could listen to at home, in my car, at work, wherever. I'd have, in effect, a million song iPod. Well, except it wouldn't be an iPod. iTunes isn't a subscription service and Apple hasn't (and probably won't) adopt Microsoft's DRM. But I wouldn't be surprised if Apple decides to roll out their own subscription-based iTunes based upon their own DRM. Apple has everything they need. They have DRM, they have the deals with the music publishers, and, most importantly, they have the ubiquitous iPod. Look for the million song iPod, I'm betting that it's coming soon.


The reason most of us are "renters" for video and "buyers" for audio is that most of us can watch a movie maybe twice or three times before it gets old. Yet we can listen to a song for a couple dozen times at LEAST.

Posted by Azeem Jiva on January 31, 2005 at 10:23 PM EST #

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