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All You Can Eat Music

The FT reports that Apple is considering charging a premium for unlimited music downloads:

Apple is in discussions with the big music companies about a radical new business model that would give customers free access to its entire iTunes music library in exchange for paying a premium for its iPod and iPhone devices.

Tyler Cowen considers the implications:

...songs will get shorter and their best riffs will be held to higher standards of immediate accessibility.  If the marginal cost of a song is free, people will sample lots more and they will give fewer songs a second listen (higher opportunity cost); of course the opening bits of a song are already free in many cases but this will make sampling even easier.

Second, this will redistribute more of the market surplus away from song providers and toward hardware providers.  Say everyone bought the "all you can eat" version and Apple received zero revenue per song (there are few songs that will swing a decision to subscribe or not). TAddendumhat helps Apple in its bargains with individual song providers.  If you have a hit song, and Apple controls iTunes, there's an element of bilateral monopoly.  So Apple is better off if it can precommit to not caring whether they have your song or not.  On the music company side, there would be a tendency toward consolidation, and bargaining over catalogs rather than songs, to offset Apple's new bargaining advantage.