Taking Stock of Subscriptions ➝

Nick Heer, on the subscription pricing trend:

But, especially over the long term, I think users will find it fatiguing — at best — to live in a world where we pay hundreds of dollars a month to listen to music, use software, and store files. There are advantages: we can listen to most music of our choosing on demand; our software is constantly up to date and regularly has new features; the files we store are synced across our devices.

Extrapolated over a longer term, however, these niceties start to feel like lock-in. What if your music listening habits don’t change all that much? What if you don’t really need all those new features, or you’re frustrated that you feel forced to relearn a piece of software you’ve relied upon for years because an update changed the UI dramatically? What if you only edit most of your files from the same device?

I’ve embraced subscription pricing for some things — like the software that I use and rely on every single day. I’m looking at you, 1Password, Ulysses, TextExpander, Overcast, Day One, and Bear. But there’s a part of me that feels like subscription services are a terrible trap in other contexts.

Take music, for example. What happens in ten years when the pace with which you listen to new music slows? You find yourself listening to the same hundred albums over and over again. In previous generations? No big deal. You bought your records, 8-tracks, or cassettes and can listen to them until they physically cease to function.

But with subscription services, you either keep paying or go through the costly process of buying the music you truly care about. Because you never actually bought the albums, you just paid a monthly fee for access to them.