Report: Apple Mulls All-You-Can-Eat iTunes Pricing Model

How many songs do you have in your iTunes library? Six hundred? Six thousand?

If Apple has its way, you could soon download any of the 6 million songs sold by its iTunes store for a one-time, "all-you-can-eat" upfront price.

The Financial Times reported on its front page Wednesday that Apple was in talks with the "Big Four" global music companies — EMI, Sony BMG, Universal Music and Warner Music Group — to radically change the pricing structure of iTunes.

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Apple representatives were not immediately available for comment.

Two options were said by the Financial Times to be on the table. One would be a subscription model akin to those offered by Rhapsody or eMusic, in which access to the full iTunes music library would be given for a monthly fee.

Songs would be downloaded, not streamed as Rhapsody's are, but also would probably not be playable once the subscription expires. By contrast, eMusic's MP3-format songs play forever.

The other possibility is much different. For a fixed upfront fee, purchasers of iPods or iPhones could download every song on iTunes for the lifetime of the device.

The latter option seems to be partly based on Nokia's upcoming "Comes With Music" feature, which will offer cell-phone-handset buyers the option buying one year's unlimited access to a library of songs. So far only Universal Music has signed up as a content provider.

Nokia will let users keep downloaded songs after the year is up, but probably won't let them be burned to CD. It may let users back them up to a PC.

Apple's all-you-can-eat program would likely use PCs as conduits to iPods, unless it's limited to Wi-Fi-capable iPhones and iPod Touches. There's no word on whether songs would play after the designated device dies.

The built-in catch for both Nokia's and Apple's schemes might be the limited capacity of each cell phone, iPod or iPhone. Both companies could restrict the number of downloads to only what an individual device will hold.

• Click here for the Financial Times story, and here for a Register analysis that tries to explain it.