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Rhapsody blasts Apple's 30% cut from in-app subs

But music service's chief says he could live with Google's 10% cut on Android apps

February 16, 2011 03:48 PM ET

Computerworld - Music streaming service Rhapsody today blasted Apple's decision to take a 30% cut of all in-app subscription and content revenues, saying that the move makes its iPhone business model unsustainable.

The Seattle-based company was the first to publicly express its displeasure with Apple's announced rules changes, which not only spelled out the 30% revenue cut, but also require content sellers to delete links to outside-app sales sites, and offer the same or lower prices for in-app purchases as they do for subscriptions or content bought elsewhere.

In a statement yesterday, Jon Irwin, Rhapsody's president, called Apple's subscription plan "economically untenable." He elaborated on that in an interview today.

"We have to pay rights holders, the music labels and publishers, for our content," said Irwin. "With all those fees that go out, [adding] Apple's 30% will exceed the revenue on our product. It's not a matter of making less money, it would be zero profit."

Although Rhapsody could continue to rely on its current business model -- it doesn't solicit subscriptions within its iPhone app, but instead adds members through its own Web site -- Irwin said that the one-click purchase proposed for in-app subs gives Apple a big edge with customers.

"If, as a result of our marketing, a customer finds our app, then uses the single-click sign-up option within the app, Apple gets 30%. That's what simply doesn't make sense," said Irwin.

"Our position isn't that Apple doesn't deserve a take, they provide a valuable service [with the App Store], but there's a fair value that they should receive for that," Irwin continued. "What's under discussion here is how much that is."

Irwin declined to specify a percentage that Rhapsody would accept, but when asked about Google One Pass, the Android-makers just-announced subscription payment model, Irwin said, "That's a lot better than 30%. That's sustainable for us."

Google has not announced how much it would take off the top for in-app subscription purchases, but several sources, including the Wall Street Journal, have said Google's commission will be 10%.

Currently, Irwin said that Rhapsody pays between 2.5% and 3.5% in credit card transaction fees when it bills subscribers monthly.

Irwin seemed to applaud Apple's one-click, in-app subscription model, but continued to hammer on the impracticality of the size of the pie piece the Cupertino, Calif. company is demanding.



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