Rhapsody fights Apple’s subscription requirement

The first public reaction to Apple’s decision to require subscription services to be available through in-app purchases has arrived, and music subscription service Rhapsody is behind it. Basically their statement is what you’d expect: “blah blah self promotion blah we don’t want to give away 30% of the profit blah”. I already wrote a bit about Apple’s decision to do this, but let’s do round 2 just for fun.

First off, it’s important to understand what Apple is requiring: any app that uses a paid subscription system has to have the option to buy the subscription in the app. It can still be bought other places, but also from within the app. Rhapsody doesn’t like this because anything that is purchases through Apple gives Apple 30% of the profit.

Also, let me just make it clear that I’m not a big fan of Apple keeping a large part of the cake. I wish they’d keep only enough to cover the cost of running the app store and supporting services, and then be glad that developers help make their iOS platform popular.

That being said, I want to address Rhapsody: Boo-freaking-hoo. Do you think Apple are the only ones to charge for using their store? When has any store ever let you sell products there just for the sake of it? I’m not even talking about just physical stores here, digital stores are the same. keeping 70% of the profit isn’t even possible with Kindle as far as I gathered from skimming through their publisher section, as you will at best be able to keep 70% of the profit after you pay for the data traffic your book uses, and that is only if your book doesn’t fall under the 35% royalty group instead (which includes public domain books). Android also charges 30%, leaving developers with 70%- same as Apple, just not for subscriptions (yet). Just because you give away the app and then fill it up afterwards doesn’t make it any less part of the system, and if everyone charges at least 30% then just deal with it.

After all, this doesn’t affect customers who don’t use Apple devices. Even the customers who do use Apple are probably so used to one way of subscribing by now that they’ll just continue doing it that way. The in-app purchase system is mostly going to be used by new subscribers, and some old ones. People who might not be customers at all if it wasn’t for the iOS device support. I don’t care how many devices I can read Kindle books on, or how many devices I can read Zinio magazines on. I use both services because they’re on the iPad. If they weren’t, I’d have absolutely no use for them. Call those 30% a maintenance fee for the app store, an advertising fee for helping to bring your more customers or simply a fee for being allowed to provide the initial app for free- but don’t pretend that the customers who subscribe through in-app purchases would have magically showed up at your doorstep without Apple. That sort of mentality of “any customer who ever use our product would buy it from us no matter what” is why everyone hates the music and movie industry who claims that a pirated copy of a media file equals a lost sale of the physical version in a brick and mortar store 100 miles away.

Yet in spite of all of this, Rhapsody seems to be more willing to give up on those customers rather than getting “only” 70% of the profit? That doesn’t sound like a good business decision in my opinion, but it’s their choice. Luckily, if they’re so sure that being on iOS offers no additional profit, they should have no problem pulling out of the app store and leave all their customers knowing that Apple is the bad guy…right? Or even better, pull out of just the app store and provide an HTML5 webapp that would basically do the same thing. No Apple API to deal with, no Apple fees, no Apple rules…and no free Apple promotion, no free Apple app store search result listing for “subscription music” etc (but obviously they don’t think those features are worth paying for anyways).

Also, before someone brings it up in a comment, I am fully aware that free apps have the same costs (for Apple) as free apps with subscription options, and paid apps for that matter- but doesn’t cost the developers anything per download. The general idea here seems to be to let those who make money off the apps pay- which is essentially how society works too, with variable tax based on income. Just because your income comes from another country doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay taxes in the country you’re living in. You also can’t bring your own food into McDonald’s and just use their tables, nor is air travel free if you sit on the floor and don’t occupy a seat. These are the same principles Apple are implementing: you’re making money off our systems, so you have to pay.

Again, I don’t really like the system that is in place, and I don’t like Apple’s “we do what we want” policy for anything they do (even if I like the result of it…yeah, I’m a hypocrite). Unfortunately, kittens and puppies aren’t the best at creating successful worldwide businesses with products that suit me, no matter how adorable they are. As much as I’d like to blame Apple for doing something pure evil (again), they’re simply the first (and I guarantee you: not the last) to fix a hole in the payment system that is used by everyone, even the government (I guess pure evil runs in the business). Poor old Rhapsody will just have to learn to live with being treated the same way that all the other money-making app publishers are being treated. Oh, the horror they must be going through.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.