Microsoft is making more moves to make its Zune line of portable media players attractive to holiday shoppers. In addition to rolling out new application software and dropping prices on flash-based models yesterday, Microsoft has introduced a new Zune Pass subscription plan that not only lets subscribers listen to as much music as they want during a month: they can also permanently keep up to 10 tracks per month, and those tracks will be usable even if a user’s Zune Pass subscription expires.
“The way people consume music has changed. With the shift to digital from CDs, it is more challenging than ever to offer the right mix of deep content, music discovery and economic value,” said Zune’s general manager for global marketing Chris Stephenson, in a statement. “People want the freedom to listen to whatever they want across millions of songs, combined with the confidence that they can keep their favorite tracks forever.”
Microsoft touts the ability to keep 10 tracks as having a value of about $10 per month, since tracks tend to sell for $0.99; a Zune Pass subscription is priced at $14.99 per month. The deal includes music from the four major music labels as well as independent distributors like INgrooves, Independent Online Distribution Alliance (IODA), and The Orchard.
Microsoft also announced that it’s offering DRM-free MP3 music from Sony BMG and Universal Music Group, in addition to its existing offerings of MP3 music from Warner and EMI, along with many of the independent music labels on the service. The company claims that, soon, more than 90 percent of the music on the Zune service will be available in DRM-free MP3 format.