MSN Music to add subs service

Microsoft is looking into expanding its MSN Music downloads store to include a subscription service.

Like Apple’s market leading iTunes Music Store, the US-only MSN service currently sells individual track or album downloads, while rival offerings from Real, Yahoo! and Napster have made a big deal of offering subscribers the chance to access their entire library on payment of a monthly fee. However, there’s a downside: if you stop paying the fee, you no longer have access to the tracks you have downloaded.

Despite announcing its plans, Microsoft declined to go into detail.

‘We are actively investigating the subscription model, but we don’t have anything to share today,’ Christine Andrews, lead product manager of Microsoft’s MSN Internet division said. ‘Once we are ready to talk more, we’ll let you know.’

Shares in Real and Napster fell after the Microsoft announcement.

Despite the prevalence of subscription services, the iTunes Music Store continues to take more than three quarters of the downloads market suggesting that music buyers still want to own the songs they pay for, rather than rent them. Consequently, Apple has resisted the what little temptation there is to offer iTunes subscriptions, but does not rule out a possible change of heart, if users demand it.

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