Tuesday morning is to music fans what Saturday is to college football fans, because new music for the week is available each week on Tuesday. Yesterday (a Tuesday), I downloaded an hours-old album from the best bar band in the land, The Hold Steady. Although it’s in my collection, I don’t own it. But I do have unlimited access to it as long as I keep paying my $14.99 Zune Pass monthly fee.
The Zune Pass is nothing new. Subscription-based music services have been around for years and offered by companies like Rhapsody and Napster. Most of these services let you buy music outright, for about $10/album or $1/song. Or you can just borrow the music indefinitely until you end your subscription.
After more than a year with the Zune Pass, I’m happy with it. Mostly because of its diversity. Offering everything from bubble gum pop like Kesha to esoteric, transcendental death metal by Liturgy as well as all genres and sub-genres in between, there’s a lot of music available. And the more current the record is, the more likely it is they have it available to subscribers, not just buyers.
But there are a few hold-outs and it’s usually the classics, like The Beatles, AC/DC or similar well-known, huge selling acts from decades back. Some of the better known records by jazz greats are not available either — John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” for one. But there are scads of releases and remixes by Miles Davis. (Jazz-loving folks should keep digging through the stacks of vinyl anyway.)
If you don’t have to own your music and you’re willing to go down a non-iTunes path, the Zune Pass is a no brainer. It’s reasonably priced, offers access to a lot of music and even live sets that never made widespread release, like a concert by The Hold Steady at Lollapalloza.
If you’re interested, check it out for yourself — the company offers a free 14-day trial period.
—Stephen Krcmar is a recovering music geek. He no longer gets sweaty palms from hard to find releases on 180 gram virgin vinyl.