I love the Microsoft Zune Pass, since to me it’s the most economical way to discover and enjoy music.  Currently with a single Zune pass for $15 a month, you can connect 3 computers, and 3 Zune devices, with unlimited downloads of music.  It allows you to have separate music libraries on multiple profiles on a single PC, or multiple PCs.

This is a much improved model over the Apple iTunes “Buy” model which seems to lock you in to pay more, and get less ability to consume media how you may want too.  However, with the addition of the Zune Social community some issues are apparent with sharing a Zune Pass that I think MS should rectify to promote the Zune pass.

So in my family of 2, (me and my wife), we have 3 Zunes, and multiple PCs.  Having been early adopters of multiple Zune’s and the Zune pass it was “ok” to share between us.  This worked quite well until the really cool features of the Social were added.    So now, when we “share” our Zune Pass,  the music my wife listens too shows up on my Zune Social page.

I saw a comment by Aaron Linne which said “iTunes is for people who like certain musicians. Zune is for people like music.”, since with a single fee you get access to really explore music, without penalty for listening to new music you have never listened too.  iTunes really only allows you to choose to spend money on music you know you may already like, instead of being able to take a “risk” on downloading something obscure because someone recommended it to you.

I am still not convinced “owning” a version of compressed, DRM’d music that limits how you can use it, via the iTunes model, is something that is “better” than, just renting the same music, but getting much more for your money.  Music format’s will change, so why own something that you will have to re-buy at a later time?   The CD’s I spent so much money on in 1995, I rarely listen too now, as my music tastes have changed over time.  Subscription services really allow you to add and remove music from your collection as your usage changes, without the additional cost.

Sharing the Zune Pass is Kludgy

Anyway, to “share” a Zune pass, you are essentially are sharing the same LiveID associated with the Zune pass between multiple people.

  1. Install the Zune software on PC-1
  2. Sign into Zune Software with LiveID-A (associated with Zune Pass)
  3. Be sure to check the Save Password, and uncheck sign in automatically
  4. Download the music you want from the marketplace
  5. Sign out with LiveID-A
  6. Sign in with LiveID-B
  7. Play/Sync music to Zune to allow play counts to appear on LiveID-B’s Zune Social page
  8. You need to repear this process on PC-2 or PC-3 as well.

The problem with this workaround is that it is kludgy and not very user friendly.  It is easy for UserB, to forget to sign out of LiveID-A before playing or syncing the Zune which messes up how the play counts are distributed on the Zune card.  This greatly de-values the social aspect of trying to track your listening habits, since it’s not a true representation of a person’s listening habits.

I assure you I’m not a listener fan of Petula Clark or Mariah Carey, but by looking at my Zune card you would think I am compared to my wife’s:

Now as 2 adults, this is not a horrible problem, since the Social is not going to make us lose sleep at night.  Yet, if I had been paying for a Zune pass to share with my wife, and teenage daughter/son,  I could see this being more of a problem.  I don’t think your child would like to see mom/dads music on their social, or vice versa.

You also lose the ability to share Zune Cards amongst your family and have the Zune card listening habits auto-download played music to your Zune collection since not every Zune card is tied to the Zune Pass when syncing.  I don’t think you want to share the same friends as well in a common liveID as well.

Sharing LiveID’s are a security risk

There is also the security aspect of this.   In order to make it as painless as possible, you need to save the LiveID/password in the Zune software so you can download music.  Doing so allows the user to “break out” of the Zune software and browse the web with that LiveID.  Since you save the password in the Zune software, to facilitate being able to switch LiveIDs it can be used to access other web properties secured with this Live ID  This means due to Single Sign On, you can now access the billing details/credit information,  Live Mail,  Microsoft Money, or even worse Health Vault information you have tied to this Live ID.  I would not want to share such abilities with my children for obvious reasons.

You could decide to create a 3rd liveID to associate the Zune Pass with, and share that amongst your family, but this doesn’t stop that ID from accessing the billing information.  This also degrades the Social features such as auto-syncing friends listening habits since none of the friends would be tied to that account.  Having to create multiple liveID’s per service also de-values the whole liveID concept as well.

MS should enable Zune Pass Live ID assocation

To easily rectify this problem, all MS would have to do is give the ability to associate multiple liveIDs to a single Zune pass membership.  I should be able to designate my wife’s liveID as being connected to my Zune pass so that all the features are available.  Otherwise MS is shooting themselves in the foot by crippling how a family can use the service., making it less likely to be used.  I suppose MS would like you to purchase a Zune pass per individual person, but this is unrealistic for the cost to value ratio.   One of the selling points over the iTunes model is that it is very affordable for a family to subscribe to the Zune pass, and expecting families of 3 to have 3 separate subscriptions at $45 a month is too high of a price.  Of course if you have a family greater than 3 people who want to share the Zune pass, you will need to purchase separate subscriptions anyway.  I could see having a single subscription fee which includes 3 Zunes, and an additional $1-$2 monthly fee per Zune/liveID associated to the master Live ID to allow this.

You could also choose to allow or disallow an associated liveID from purchasing MS Points, so parents could control the potential for their children to purchase content on the associated Zune Pass’s credit information.  The master liveID holder could purchase MS points, and allocate them to the associated secondary account if they wanted to allow the purchases of songs or video content.  Today if you have the liveID, ,there doesn’t appear a way to restrict this ability.  I know parental controls exist in liveID’s but this type of associations should be on a service based scope since you may not be sharing with a “child” liveID account, which is the case with sharing with a Spouse, or sharing with your own parents, etc.

Even Zune Staff members are having issues with this, and I really hope Microsoft is working on a safe, secure, and user friendly way for multiple people to share the same Zune pass subscription.  This is one of the key benefits Zune offers over iTunes regarding it’s subscription model, so MS should bolster it’s strengths to make it stand out for the consumers.

So if you could share a single Zune Pass account with multiple people in your family, but keep your listening tastes separated with little effort, would you be more likely to purchase a Zune pass subscription?

With the recent 2.5 Zune release, they added TV shows to the Marketplace, which may make it possible to include video content in the Zune pass in the future.  Would you purchase a Zune pass for your family if you could download/view unlimited Music and TV content for a single monthly fee for your entire family?

Technorati Tags: Zune,Music,Media

  • Rich Parkinson

    YES, YES, and YES! I have been having these exact same troubles. My dad signed up for a pass, and I thought I'd try it out. The problem is that he's always signed in, thus no pass for me…
    I like your ideas about master and secondary accounts, it'd relieve my stress about sharing a pass.
    I would also definitely purchase a pass that had TV/movie content.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Rich Parkinson

    YES, YES, and YES! I have been having these exact same troubles. My dad signed up for a pass, and I thought I’d try it out. The problem is that he’s always signed in, thus no pass for me…
    I like your ideas about master and secondary accounts, it’d relieve my stress about sharing a pass.
    I would also definitely purchase a pass that had TV/movie content.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Excellent!!
    Yes that is the problem in a nut shell.
    If I am understanding you right…then it should be easier than the aforementioned for families with two zunes, and separate pc's sharing the same wireless network to share a Pass. This was my thinking in the first place–the Economy of it. I kind of feel that I was mislead. It is certainly not user friendly or easy to accomplish,but you would never know it from the advertising. I am still enjoying it though, but I doubt that my wiife will want to spend the extra $ for a separate Pass–the economical aspect kind of takes a leap. 🙁

  • Excellent!!
    Yes that is the problem in a nut shell.
    If I am understanding you right…then it should be easier than the aforementioned for families with two zunes, and separate pc’s sharing the same wireless network to share a Pass. This was my thinking in the first place–the Economy of it. I kind of feel that I was mislead. It is certainly not user friendly or easy to accomplish,but you would never know it from the advertising. I am still enjoying it though, but I doubt that my wiife will want to spend the extra $ for a separate Pass–the economical aspect kind of takes a leap. 🙁

  • jake m

    hahaha…
    yeah.
    according to the social, i am a 150+ track Britany Spears listener.
    my wife doesn't really understand why I don't think this is cool.
    I was reading the Terms of Service <a href="http://(http://www.zune.net/en-US/legal/termsofservice.htm)” target=”_blank”>(http://www.zune.net/en-US/legal/termsofservice.htm)
    and in the "6. You Are Responsible For Your Service Account." section, it talks about associated accounts.
    I am looking into how I can get my wifes .net account setup as an "associated" account. If I figure it out, I will repost. I will also check back if you are able to resolve this.
    account = jaekster.
    let me know if you are able to resolve this.
    -jaekster

  • jake m

    hahaha…
    yeah.
    according to the social, i am a 150+ track Britany Spears listener.
    my wife doesn't really understand why I don't think this is cool.
    I was reading the Terms of Service (http://www.zune.net/en-US/legal/termsofservice.htm)
    and in the "6. You Are Responsible For Your Service Account." section, it talks about associated accounts.
    I am looking into how I can get my wifes .net account setup as an "associated" account. If I figure it out, I will repost. I will also check back if you are able to resolve this.
    account = jaekster.
    let me know if you are able to resolve this.
    -jaekster

  • Ely

    HI Jef,
    I just ran across your excellent article searching about zunes on google. I'm getting some zunes for my family for xmas this year, and found it pretty interesting. Do you know if they fixed any of these issues in the 3.0 software?

  • Ely

    HI Jef,
    I just ran across your excellent article searching about zunes on google. I’m getting some zunes for my family for xmas this year, and found it pretty interesting. Do you know if they fixed any of these issues in the 3.0 software?

  • Jef

    Ely,
    Unfortunately this is still the issue in the 3.1 software. I think this is more of a backend issue than a software/client issue, so I am not sure how they will resolve it currently.
    I tend to think this whole concept of "personalized Services" for households is something new in the industry, so may not have a good solution yet. For example we don't pay per family member for Cable TV just because we may have different viewing habits. Cable TV is a oneway media, where as Zune and Xbox Gold are interactive and personal.
    I think they just need to establish a household concept, and then identifiy household members to preserve personalized experiences.
    I still think it's better than the iTunes pay per track licensing which doesn't really let you share at all.

  • Jef

    Ely,
    Unfortunately this is still the issue in the 3.1 software. I think this is more of a backend issue than a software/client issue, so I am not sure how they will resolve it currently.
    I tend to think this whole concept of "personalized Services" for households is something new in the industry, so may not have a good solution yet. For example we don’t pay per family member for Cable TV just because we may have different viewing habits. Cable TV is a oneway media, where as Zune and Xbox Gold are interactive and personal.
    I think they just need to establish a household concept, and then identifiy household members to preserve personalized experiences.
    I still think it’s better than the iTunes pay per track licensing which doesn’t really let you share at all.

  • Neveth

    I know this is a really old post but I am feeling very dumb and am not sure I understand this right: My SO and I have very disparate listening habits and separate computers. With a 3rd joint account we could have the zune pass on that, and then have entirely separate collections on each computer? (this is the sticking point. Neither one of us wants to be saddled with losing space on our PC for the other's music.)

  • Neveth

    I know this is a really old post but I am feeling very dumb and am not sure I understand this right: My SO and I have very disparate listening habits and separate computers. With a 3rd joint account we could have the zune pass on that, and then have entirely separate collections on each computer? (this is the sticking point. Neither one of us wants to be saddled with losing space on our PC for the other’s music.)

  • Jef

    Neveth,
    You are correct in that you can have completely different Music Libraries on multiple computers (upto 3). You can even have different libraries on the same computer, just under a different user profile.
    The only time the music "clashes" is when it reports statistics back to the Social. You have to download all the music from zune on the account which has the Zune pass. So if you both login to the Zune with the same account, your play history from both will show on the same account.
    Jef

  • Jef

    Neveth,
    You are correct in that you can have completely different Music Libraries on multiple computers (upto 3). You can even have different libraries on the same computer, just under a different user profile.
    The only time the music "clashes" is when it reports statistics back to the Social. You have to download all the music from zune on the account which has the Zune pass. So if you both login to the Zune with the same account, your play history from both will show on the same account.
    Jef

  • Brian

    I would like to be updated if you every come across a solution for this. It seems, for now, my wife and I will be sharing our social profile.

  • Brian

    I would like to be updated if you every come across a solution for this. It seems, for now, my wife and I will be sharing our social profile.

  • Thank you for this post. I'm a newly upgraded Zune 120 owner (from my 2yr old 30gb) and I just got Zune Pass. My wife and son also have Zunes so figuring out how to handle three separate zunes on different windows user account with separate music libraries (my wife's a little bit country I'm a lot of rock-n-roll) is very goofy. I totally agree that zune pass association would be the way to go.
    So I'll work it like this:
    don't plug anything in, they log in with my account, download the music they want, sign out of my account, plug in their zune and sync. Sheesh. 😉
    Thanks for the post! Very helpful.

  • Thank you for this post. I’m a newly upgraded Zune 120 owner (from my 2yr old 30gb) and I just got Zune Pass. My wife and son also have Zunes so figuring out how to handle three separate zunes on different windows user account with separate music libraries (my wife’s a little bit country I’m a lot of rock-n-roll) is very goofy. I totally agree that zune pass association would be the way to go.
    So I’ll work it like this:
    don’t plug anything in, they log in with my account, download the music they want, sign out of my account, plug in their zune and sync. Sheesh. 😉
    Thanks for the post! Very helpful.

  • calebu2

    Apparently I am a bronze medal listener to Baby Einstein Orchestra. You wouldn't know to look at me that I am such a huge Baby Einstein fan.
    One of the other things I wish were available is the ability to have a song or album automatically download to all devices. Or the ability to say "I never want to see that song on my laptop no matter how much I try to download it".
    My wife and my music tastes are very similar, so for the most part we have the same downloads (and tend to use the subscription history-restore all method to keep our libraries in sync). But if I delete all the baby einstein from my laptop, then we download 5 new albums and use the subscription history to resync our collections, I end up redownloading all the baby einstein. I know I could select just the songs I want but when you are talking about 200+ Baby Einstein songs you don't want and 50-60 songs you do want it is a little tedious.

  • calebu2

    Apparently I am a bronze medal listener to Baby Einstein Orchestra. You wouldn’t know to look at me that I am such a huge Baby Einstein fan.
    One of the other things I wish were available is the ability to have a song or album automatically download to all devices. Or the ability to say "I never want to see that song on my laptop no matter how much I try to download it".
    My wife and my music tastes are very similar, so for the most part we have the same downloads (and tend to use the subscription history-restore all method to keep our libraries in sync). But if I delete all the baby einstein from my laptop, then we download 5 new albums and use the subscription history to resync our collections, I end up redownloading all the baby einstein. I know I could select just the songs I want but when you are talking about 200+ Baby Einstein songs you don’t want and 50-60 songs you do want it is a little tedious.

  • RE: Share your Zune Pass, not your Social

    With Microsoft’s new expanded “Games on Demand” ability coming to the Xbox 360,  it appears more people are complaining about the “locked in” feeling as compared to physical media.  This problem already exists for downloading DRM movies, and

  • RE: Share your Zune Pass, not your Social
    With Microsoft’s new expanded “Games on Demand” ability coming to the Xbox 360,  it appears more people are complaining about the “locked in” feeling as compared to physical media.  This problem already exists for downloading DRM movies, and

  • Dane

    Hey Jef, great article. I was curious however…did the new firmware make any changes to the ability to share a Zune Pass? My fiance and I each purchased a Zune HD first day. We currently have a 14 day trial of Zune Pass and my account is the one linked to the Zune Pass. For some reason or another we're not able to transfer songs to a second Zune with the method outlined above. I have tried multiple times :-/ When signing in as the second user, I log in first and connect Zune #2 right after. I was uncertain if it mattered. Afterwards, I drag and drop the songs from #1 Zune to no avail. Should the second Zune be recognized as a Guest? Help! Thank you.

  • Jef

    Dane,I just upgraded my wife's PC, and updated the firmware on her Zune 30. I had no issue with syncing content from our Zune Pass to her Zune, as well as no problem with my Zune on a different PC.What error are you getting when you try and sync? click on the little yellow ! to get error details.I would try this:1 – Sign into Zune with Dane2 – Download the music from the marketplace that Dane or DaneFiance wants to sync2 – Sync DaneZune3 – Disconnect DaneZune4 – Sign into Zune with DaneFiance5 – Sync DaneFianceZuneAs long as it's downloaded/refreshed while you are signed into the account with the Zunepass, you can sync the music to 3 players.Also make sure DaneFianceZune is listed in the Devices on the account with the zunePass trial.I did notice they may have made some changes to how plays are tracked. They also made it easier to switch users too. I'll check to see if there is anything new to make this more usable.

  • eug

    Have there been any positive changes? This entry is the first hit on google for "share zune pass", so i'm sure many people are wondering the same. 🙂

  • Jef

    Eug,There are some interface improvements in the Zune 4.0 software for switching between IDs, but that's about all I see. Though I have not seen my wife's plays show up on my profile, but I am not sure if it just because she has not sync'd her Zune lately.Jef

  • eug

    Have there been any positive changes? This entry is the first hit on google for "share zune pass", so i'm sure many people are wondering the same. 🙂

  • Jef

    Eug,There are some interface improvements in the Zune 4.0 software for switching between IDs, but that's about all I see. Though I have not seen my wife's plays show up on my profile, but I am not sure if it just because she has not sync'd her Zune lately.Jef

  • Dan

    This is so right on! I'm about to stop paying for ZunePass because of this. They think it's only about the kids but just wait and see how Windows Phone 7 changes all of that (lots of parents will have WP7 devices that are now Zunes).

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