When Microsoft launched its Zune Player to compete with Apple’s iPod, they also launched the Zune Marketplace to compete with iTunes. But Microsoft took the online music store one step further by offering something truly unique: the Zune Pass. The Zune Pass addresses some of the challenges that digital music purveyors faces, such as piracy, by offering a combination of music subscription and paid per track download services. For those unfamiliar with the model, it can be a bit difficult to understand. This article will help walk you through the costs and benefits of a Zune Pass.
Microsoft advertises Zune as a service that gives you unlimited music downloads and unlimited streaming music from the Zune Marketplace. Of course, there’s a slight catch to that. You can only play and/or download songs to your computer, Xbox 360, Zune HD or Windows Phone. Furthermore, you can only play songs to three devices per Zune subscription. That means you can’t burn your songs to CDs or sync them to non-Zune devices, such as iPods or iPhones.
When your subscription expires, you’ll no longer have access to these songs—even from your Windows computer, Xbox 360 or Zune. That is, you must have a paid and active Zune Pass subscription to have access to your music.
In spite of that caveat, there is one attractive perk of the Zune Pass: each month, you get to keep ten of your downloaded tracks. By “keep,” it means you can download them to your computer, burn them to discs (up to 7 seven times), convert them to another format and sync them to as many Zune devices as you want. These tracks have unlimited plays even after your Zune Pass expires or if you cancel your subscription.
You can start a Zune Pass free trial for 14 days for free. You’ll have to enter a credit card for age verification, but you won’t be charged—even when your trial expires. Thereafter, a Zune Pass costs $14.99 per month.
The advantage of a Zune Pass is that it lets you discover new music without worrying about cost. You can listen to every single album on the Zune Marketplace for a flat monthly rate. Plus, you can grow your digital music collection each month when you keep ten of your favorites. On a per song basis, the pricing isn’t particularly competitive—it evens out to about $1.50 per song. But the ability to listen to any album in the Zune Marketplace is unbeatable, especially when compared to the short snippets you’ll find on Amazon Music or iTunes.
Bottom-line: If you’re an adventurous music lover who likes to try new artists out without commitment, the Zune Pass is a great investment. If you only buy one album every few months, you’ll save money by purchasing songs a la carte without a Zune Pass.