Microsoft Updates Zune Pass, Now Even More Awesome

Recently Microsoft updated the terms of the Zune Pass music subscription.  In the past the $15 per month service offered unlimited access to most of the Zune Marketplace’s music collection on a subscription basis.  This meant that if the user stopped paying, the music stopped playing.  Being an avid music listener, always trying out new artists and styles, the subscription scheme appealed to me.  I didn’t like the idea of not owning the music, but I figured if people paid for satellite radio, what’s so strange about paying for subscription music?

With a lot of people with whom I talked, it all came back to the lack of ownership.  Microsoft addressed that issue earlier this week.  Under the new agreement the Zune Pass is still $15 per month and still offers unlimited access to most of the Zune Marketplace’s music collection, but now every month Zune pass users get to keep 10 songs… as in own.  Best of all, currently 90% of the Zune Marketplace’s music collection is DRM free, available as 320Kbps MP3 files.  This was exciting news for me, and I just now tested it out.  I am very impressed with the results.

First I decided to buy the song that I was listening to.
zune subscription 1

 

I wanted to go to the album’s page in the Marketplace, so I right-clicked on it and selected “More about this album”.
zune subscription 2

 

This brought me to the album’s page.  Notice how the buttons that would usually say “Download” (or “Buy” with a price if I didn’t have a Zune Pass) say “In Collection” because I already downloaded the songs.  Also notice how this album is available as a DRM-free MP3 download.
zune subscription 3

Since I want to buy the song, I’ll right-click on it and select buy.
zune subscription 4

This brings me to a confirmation dialogue.  Notice how the song is shown as no charge, and the number of song credits is displayed under my email address (blocked out) and my Microsoft point balance.
zune subscription 5

Clicking “Buy” starts the process.
zune subscription 6

 

Now the song downloads, all the while it is still playing in the background.
zune subscription 7

 

With the song downloaded, I click “In Collection” to see the song in my collection.
zune subscription 8

 

I right-clicked on the song and clicked “Properties” to get information about the song.  Notice how next to DRM it says “No”.  (For on of the songs downloaded under the subscription it says “Yes – license expires 12/1/2008 (has sync rights, no burn rights]”.)
zune subscription 9

 

Clicking on the file path I see that the song is, in fact, an MP3 file in a separate folder from the subscription music.
zune subscription 10

 

I hunted around a bit and found that the number of song credits can be found by clicking on “Settings” in the upper-right corner of the Zune software, and then clicking on “account”.
zune subscription 11

 

If not Microsoft being “cool” and “nice to the consumer”, this new Zune Pass agreement is certainly a clever move by Microsoft.  Sure, it does make it easier for Zune Pass users to quit their membership (though who would want to?), but it makes it significantly easier for new users to give Zune Pass, and therefore the Zune, a try.  Seriously, $10 worth of music to own and unlimited access to subscription music for $15 a month?  This is a no-brainer.

(I read about this from on10.net and channel9.msdn.com before trying it myself, though I have had a Zune Pass for at least a year.)

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