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Columbia exec: iPods will be obsolete

updated 03:05 am EDT, Mon September 3, 2007

Subscription future

In an interview with the New York Times, head of Columbia Records and legendary producer Rick Rubin predicts a music industry future where the subscription model dominates, and Apple's per-track purchase model, along with the iPod, are things of the past. "You'd pay, say, $19.95 a month, and the music will come anywhere you'd like. In this new world, there will be a virtual library that will be accessible from your car, from your cellphone, from your computer, from your television. Anywhere. The iPod will be obsolete, but there would be a Walkman-like device you could plug into speakers at home. You'll say, 'Today I want to listen to ... Simon and Garfunkel,' and there they are. The service can have demos, bootlegs, concerts, whatever context the artist wants to put out. And once that model is put into place, the industry will grow 10 times the size it is now."

The pursuit of a new business model is spurred by the fact that traditional record companies have seen radio audiences flock to satellite, losing their grip on the medium, record shops like Tower records shutter their doors, and the album market be adversely impacted by Apple's download singles.

Recording titan David Geffen also sees the subscription model as a saving grace for the traditional record industry. "Steve Jobs understood Napster better than the record business did," he told the Times. "iPods made it easy for people to share music, and Apple took a big percentage of the business that once belonged to the record companies. The subscription model is the only way to save the music business. If music is easily available at a price of five or six dollars a month, then nobody will steal it."

Also at issue is the non-variable pricing nature of the iTunes store -- a model Apple has stuck with, perhaps even to the point of losing major content providers like NBC, which was recently banished from the iTunes Store after stating that it would not renew its contract with Apple in December. A subscription model would also make variable pricing impossible, which some insiders think could reduce overall revenue.

by MacNN Staff




  1. pascalpp

    Joined: Dec 1969


    rick rubin is a genius

    about SOME things. i read that article today. pretty great. but when i got to the part about subscriptions being the future and ipods being obsolete, i thought to myself, you're crazy, mr. rubin.

  1. tontondavid10

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Memory loss

    For a man who remembers his first record purchase he seems to have missed the point of the success of iTunes. People like to own their music. As subscription models go, Napter and Co. are actually not bad. But I don't believe that the success of iTunes is due solely to the success of the iPod.

  1. Gee4orce

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Is he senile ?

    "The iPod will be obsolete, but there would be a Walkman-like device you could plug into speakers at home", say, an iPod ?

    I'll cut him some slack and assume he abused too much substance back in the 70s

  1. - - e r i k - -

    Joined: Dec 1969


    OK, Rubin...

    "The iPod will be obsolete, but there would be a Walkman-like device you could plug into speakers at home."

    … an iPod then? :P

  1. Jeronimo2000

    Joined: Dec 1969


    oh sure

    So subscription models are gonna be the hottest thing around?

    Surprising then that they're still not taking off after being around for a couple of years, while the iTMS sells more song quarter by quarter. I agree that the "access your music from anywhere" model will be standard in the not-too-distant future, but I expect it to really be YOUR music you can have access to from your cell phone, your car, your parents' home stereo 500 miles away from your own home. It'll probably be stored with your home server, or synched with some online storage service so you can access it anytime, even when your home machine is off (or in the case of a Windows PC, hacked or crashed).

  1. coldfusion1970

    Joined: Dec 1969


    rubin the rich

    I would never like to rent my music.

    My ideal platform is DRM free ITMS tracks and we're part of the way there now (but i do also have a load of purchased ITMS tracks with DRM).

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Bullshit !

    Well ? where does the artists fit in ? If a big major single central corporation holds the key to my subcription ("10% increase fee every year, or we cut the pipe"), how a brand new band can emerge ? Welcome to centralized brainwashing "gimme-all-your-money" machine. And I bet Microsoft will power all those nive little machines :)

  1. maccam

    Joined: Dec 1969



    In society where long-term commiment (to anything) is diminishing, imagine how many will react to facing the proposition of spending $19.95 a month for life if you want music. In my case, the percentage of music I care for propabably does not even make 1% of the music available digitally. I suspect that there are others out there who also have selective taste in music. Why would I (we) pay a monthly fee to have access to vast amounts of music I (we) don't like? I spent way less than $19.95 a month on iTunes. I am not motivated by subscriptions.

  1. jogdish

    Joined: Dec 1969


    They way I see it…

    10-20 years from now the record companies cease to exsist. The artists will directly distribute their songs via iTunes and other direct download sites. The record companies see this and are scared to death. Their panic is the only explanation for such ridiculous statements such as this.

  1. ruperts

    Joined: Dec 1969


    subscription model

    is ok for films but certainly not for music.. at least in my opinion ...

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