The paper describes an approximate but rather general derivation of the acoustic threshold for a subharmonic component to be possible in the sound scattered by an insonified gas bubble. The general result is illustrated with several specific models for the mechanical behavior of the surface coating of bubbles used as acoustic contrast agents. The approximate results are found to be in satisfactory agreement with fully non-linear numerical results in the literature. The amplitude of the first harmonic is also found by the same method. A fundamental feature identified by the analysis is that the subharmonic threshold can be considerably lowered with respect to that of an uncoated free bubble if the mechanical response of the coating varies rapidly in the neighborhood of certain specific values of the bubble radius, e.g., because of buckling.