As soon as Apple confirms it will be holding press briefings, the web is awash with speculation about what will be announced. Today's planned briefing is no exception. Among the rumours of new iPods are suggestions of a subscription-based service for iTunes.

Currently, Apple takes an a la carte approach to music retail - you pay a flat rate to download single tracks or entire albums. A subscription-based service typically charges a monthly fee for access to music; in most cases, though, once you end your subscription, you also lose access to your music library. But would such a move be a good idea for Apple?

Christopher Breen is in favour of a subscription component to iTunes and says it would augment an already impressive online service while Philip Michaels the move wouldn't make much sense for Apple.

The case for subscription services

When the subject of music subscription services crop up around the office, every derisive eye blinks in my direction. Because, you see, alone among my colleagues I think such services offer a lot of benefits for the right kind of user. I've been a Rhapsody subscriber for years and don't regret my monthly payments for these reasons:

No, I don't necessarily want to own all my music

When I was 17 and just building my record collection, I swore that I would listen to Surrealistic Pillow, Catch Bull at Four, Brain Salad Surgery, and Fragile for the rest of my life. When it came time to replace some beloved vinyl with CDs some 15 years later, none of those albums made the cut (I'm not surprised if you've never heard of them). And today, only one lives in digitised form in my iTunes library. Much of the music I purchased in the '80s and '90s sounds similarly dated and rarely makes it into my current rotation.

So, for me, a lot of pop music is disposable. I will certainly continue to purchase music I treasure (and hope to treasure for the next few years), but the days when I needed to own the latest top-o'-the-pops are long gone.

Kicking the tires
Like you, I have several dozen artists I keep track of - cocking a watchful eye at upcoming releases. In the past I'd purchase just about every one of those releases with the idea that because I liked Artist A's Album W, X, and Y, Album Z was likely a pretty good bet. While that strategy paid off much of the time, I occasionally wound up purchasing the inevitable clunker. With a subscription service, I'm completely protected from this happening again.

NEXT PAGE: More arguments for a subscription-based iTunes service

  1. We argue for and against a new-look iTunes
  2. More arguments for a subscription-based iTunes service
  3. The argument against a subscription based iTunes service
  4. Even more reason why a subscription-based iTunes service won't work