Monthly subscriptions have gotten a bit of a bad rap over the years, mostly because they’ve been associated with antiquated (and sometimes downright annoying) services and industries. Case in point: your cell phone bill. Your cable bill. Your gym bill. Immortalized in the words of Destiny’s Child, monthly services are all about bills, bills, bills. Plus there’s the burden of contracts you can’t escape for a year, or sometimes more. In order to get access to something that is pretty much necessary for daily work and communication, i.e. the internet, you’ve got to be willing to sign a document that says you will, without fail, continue to pay x amount of dollars every month.
Ok, let’s level here. It’s not that monthly charges are inherently bad. So far, they’ve just been really poorly executed. We begrudgingly accepted these recurring charges as necessary evils to be budgeted for (and complained about) regularly. But, born out of the anger and mistrust and general disdain we have for them, a new sort of monthly service has taken shape.
The first fairly-ubiquitous example we saw was Netflix. We don’t think of a monthly Netflix charge as a bill: it’s silently tacked onto our credit card statement or innocuously drawn from our bank accounts so that we barely notice it’s there. And what started out as a replacement for going to the video store has turned into a replacement for your monthly cable bill. Netflix’s streaming options have grown to the point that it’s actually feasible for you to get all your entertainment in one place without living under the tyranny of the cable company.
Spotify has followed suit and done something similar for music. With Spotify Premium, you get unlimited access to streaming music for $9.99 a month with no ads, plus you can download that music to your devices so you can listen when you don’t have a connection or don’t want to burn through your data plan with all that streaming. It’s like the all-you-can-eat buffet of music to iTunes’ à la carte menu, and they serve almost every artist you can think of. (Unless you’re looking for Taylor Swift. Sorry about that one.)
Other consumer industries not particularly known for monthly charges have gotten on the subscription bandwagon in the interest of saving you money on recurring purchases. Case in point: shaving companies. Instead of heading to the drug store when you run out of razor or shaving products (after desperately squeezing the last of your shaving cream out of the container), you can get shaving plans from Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s—or, our personal favorite, Bevel. Bevel gives you the convenience of a monthly subscription, but sends packages in three-month increments to save on packaging waste, which is genius.
Another subscription we’re obsessed with is Jukely. It’s like Spotify but for concert junkies. Currently serving 17 cities, Jukely allows you to pay one monthly fee of $25 for unlimited concerts, and you can choose from hundreds of concerts a month. For anyone who loves live music, it’s a no-brainer. But more importantly, it takes an industry that’s normally cost prohibitive for its biggest fans and instead rewards those supporters for their enthusiasm—the more concerts you attend, the less it costs you.
Django Django performing at a Jukely show
A huge differentiating factor with all of these monthly services is that they incorporate customer support that’s responsive and human. One Netflix support agent had an entire conversation with a customer where they roleplayed as Star Trek characters. Another former Netflix employee says, "Netflix really wanted to destroy the image of the modern call center, of calling in and talking to a robot. They wanted it to be a personal experience that the customer could look back on fondly."
A differentiating factor with all of these services is that they incorporate customer support that’s responsive and human.
That’s wildly different from the experience that a big telecom company has to offer. Remember when Ryan Block tried to cancel his Comcast subscription only to be trapped in a Sisyphean hell of a conversation with the Comcast rep? Try as he might, in spite of his completely reasonable answers as to why he wanted to stop his Comcast service, the rep simply wouldn’t permit him to cancel. Of course, this incident is an outlier, but it’s representative of the attitude of contract-based service providers on the whole. We’re the big guys. We can do whatever we want.
How many monthly subscriptions can one person have?
So what's the catch? The risk here is subscription fatigue. How many monthly subscriptions can one person have? When you’re paying for a Birchbox, Stitchfix, Hulu, Squarespace, and HBO Now membership every month, it can add up. It’s important to weigh the costs and benefits, human elements included, when making the switch over to any monthly service. That, and maybe go through a subscription purge every once in a while.
Ultimately, Netflix, Spotify, Jukely, Bevel, and hundreds of others all prove that there’s another (better) way to operate, and that’s resulted in more and more consumers opting out of companies that we previous thought of as un-opt-outable. A monthly service doesn’t have to involve signing a contract, paying a bill, and hating the company when they keep you on hold. It can be human.
There’s no longer only one way to do things. Service providers, take notice.