Microsoft's Zune music player and subscription service have faced an uphill battle to capture a significant share of the Apple-dominated digital music market. But the company is nothing if not persistent.

In an effort to draw more subscribers to its Zune Pass unlimited music service, Microsoft has added a free ownership model. Anyone paying $15 per month for the Zune Pass all-you-can-eat subscription can now download and own up to 10 tracks per month as well. These tracks are free of digital rights management restrictions, meaning users can keep them after their subscription expires or burn them to a CD.

According to Chris Stephenson, GM of global marketing for Microsoft's entertainment business, adding DRM-free downloads is at least a tacit admission that the current music subscription model needs new approaches to realize its promise. He recently spoke with Billboard about the thinking behind the new offer.

1. Why did you decide to suddenly give away 10 free tracks per month with a Zune Pass subscription?
From day one, the whole discovery idea has been a big deal for us, and subscription is a way to get to that as an underlying principle. As we've looked at it, it's clear that something needed to be done to the model to add a bigger economic value. So we started looking at a bunch of different models.

2. Why this one? What does this add to the subscription model?
Based on a bunch of research we did about a year ago, we found the idea of listening to all music and keeping a number of [songs] was a resounding success. The economic value in the consumer's mind just changed, and there was a lot of enthusiasm among the labels as well. We feel it will really change the way people think about subscription.

3. Don't music subscribers tend to buy more music than nonsubscribers?

Click here for the full article, which includes how the company is paying for the free tracks offer, the strategy behind the move and more.