Allegedly tipped off by senior officials close to the matter, the Financial Times suggests that Apple is in talks with music labels to follow an approach first pioneered by Nokia and Universal Music Group.
Dubbed Comes With Music, the upcoming service has customers pay more for a cellphone in return for as many a la carte
music downloads as the customer likes over the course of a year. In
this implementation, customers can either renew a subscription once it
expires or else keep the tracks they’ve downloaded, even if they switch
to competing phones or music services.
Here is the article. One point is that songs will get shorter and their best riffs will be held to higher standards of immediate accessibility. If the marginal cost of a song is free, people will sample lots more and they will give fewer songs a second listen (higher opportunity cost); of course the opening bits of a song are already free in many cases but this will make sampling even easier.
Second, this will redistribute more of the market surplus away from song providers and toward hardware providers. Say everyone bought the "all you can eat" version and Apple received zero revenue per song (there are few songs that will swing a decision to subscribe or not). TAddendumhat helps Apple in its bargains with individual song providers. If you have a hit song, and Apple controls iTunes, there’s an element of bilateral monopoly. So Apple is better off if it can precommit to not caring whether they have your song or not. On the music company side, there would be a tendency toward consolidation, and bargaining over catalogs rather than songs, to offset Apple’s new bargaining advantage.
What other effects can you think of?
Addendum: Some sources are claiming this is just a rumor.