Digital Music

Zune Revalues Subscriptions With 10 Free Tracks

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Microsoft, has increased the value of its Zune Pass music subscriptions adding 10 free mp3 downloads a month to its $14.99 package. The announcement also added Sony BMG and Universal to the other two majors offering their music as DRM-free mp3s making Zune 90% DRM free. Independent aggregators IODA, The Orchard and INgrooves have also joined the majors in the free download program.
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Music subscriptions from Zune, Napster, Rhapsody and others have struggled to gain traction. Microsoft may have found a way to jump start the sector. If downloaded and valed at 99 cents each the 10 free tracks bring the effective price of unlimited on-demand listening to $4.99. As eMusic has proven, not every subscriber remembers to grab their monthly quota, leaving the effective cost to Zune lower.

There is no word yet on what Microsoft is paying to each distributor, but eMusic returns about 35 cents per track downloaded by subscribers. Zunes new program offers real competion to Rhapsody America and Napster who now have less attractive offerings. eMusic may also feel some pressure though its deep indie catalog has built a dedicated community of indie music fans.

Microsoft, who also lowered Zune player prices this week, has bet on music subsrcriptions from the beginning. New Zune 3.0 software also includes features focused on music discovery and personalizing the music experience:

  • Mixview. Customers can select an artist, album or listener from the Zune Social online music community to activate a visual mosaic of related music and listeners. With each click, users can take the view in a new direction. Mixview works with users’ current collection of music, in addition to tracks and albums from across the Zune Marketplace.
  • Zune Channels. Subscribers can explore dozens of channels programmed by genre; explore sources such as Billboard Hot 100, The FADER magazine and KEXP radio; or access themed channels, like fitness, to get a steady stream ofnew music added to their collection automatically. Zune will even create custom channels for each user, based on favorite artists and genres.
  • Personal Picks. Zune software learns what kind of music users like and makes personal recommendations. Each week Zune suggests artists, albums and tracks based on the music each person has been listening to, as well as channels they might enjoy and listeners like them in the Zune Social.

Zune is offering a free, 14-day trial to all new customers.More information is available at http://www.zune.net/free.

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