Rhapsody no longer sells MP3 downloads, pull ads from website

Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 12:50pm

Music service Rhapsody has reportedly abandoned MP3 sales, and has removed third-party advertising from its website, says Geekwire.

A Rhapsody spokewoman pointed to these changes, as well as Rhapsody's new $5/month subscription price for MetroPCS customers, to explain the company's recent 8% second-quarter revenue dip. Rhapsody did narrow its quarterly loss somewhat, however. The company enjoyed its best annual revenue of $143.7 million last year as well.

Read more in Geekwire here.

Updated Rhapsody iOS app built around curated playlists and editorial content

Monday, July 22, 2013 - 12:55pm

Rhapsody's new update to its Apple mobile app is focused on "lean back" listening and print content that "bring(s) the full editorial experience to iOS devices," the company announced. 

Rhapsody editors curate both playlists and extra content like new artist recommendations, album reviews, artist interviews, and videos.

"We guide listeners through that massive catalog by introducing them to new music and old favorites via curated editorial programming. It's like the difference between shopping at Nordstrom versus Costco," said Brendan Benzing, general manager, Americas, Rhapsody.

Rhapsody redesigned the app's look and navigation, upgraded album and artist pages, and added new full-screen play and pop-up menus to add, download, queue, or "favorite" tracks and albums.

New Rhapsody "companion" app adds touring info to functionality of streaming service

Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 1:50pm

Streaming music service Rhapsody has launched a new "companion app," focused on artist touring and selling concert tickets.

The new app combines the company's on-demand music streaming service with an easy way for listeners to find live events and purchase tickets.

Rhapsody president Jon Irwin keynoted RAIN Summit West in Las Vegas in April. He spoke of the importance of connecting artists and listeners in meaningful ways, and going beyond simply delivering music in the effort to create "the Ultimate Stream."

This is Rhapsody's second "companion app," after the Songmatch app that identifies music (like Shazam) and can automatically add it to Rhapsody playlists. The new Rhapsody Concerts app was released for iOS today, with Android to follow.

Our recap of Irwin's RAIN Summit West keynote speech is here, and you can hear complete audio here. CNet reports on the new Rhapsody Concerts app here.

Rhapsody's Irwin suggests strategic partnerships to defray costs, make services more attractive to consumers

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 6:20pm

Streaming music service Rhapsody has committed to providing "liner-note-style credits" for every track in its 17 million-plus library, including the names of producers, engineers, composers, session performers, and more (you can read more about this in The New York Times here).

There are likely several reasons why Rhapsody would commit to such a huge undertaking, but one might just be that enhancements like this help make service the center of (listeners') music experience," to quote the company's Jon Irwin. Irwin, Rhapsody International president, gave the second of two keynote addresses at the recent RAIN Summit West event in Las Vegas.

Liner note-style credits would also help the listener and the artist to "connect in a meaningful way," to again paraphrase Irwin -- fundamentally necessary for creating the experience for which consumers will pay. 

The streaming music/Internet radio space is certainly crowded, yet Irwin maintained that none of these companies are "really killing it" from a customer experience perspective, or from a profitability perspective (and he includes his own company in that assessment). "Nobody has nailed it across all content types and all listening modes," he said, to offer what he termed "the Ultimate Stream." That is, the various types of content (music, news, sports, comedy, live radio) a listener might want at different times, in any listening venue or device (in the car, the mobile phone, at home).

Irwin listed what he thought the necessary qualities of the perfect music service interface. It would (be):

  1. deeply personal
  2. drop-dead simple
  3. connect fans to artists, personalities
  4. new yet familiar
  5. easier than piracy
  6. guided by trusted sources
  7. needs to be embraced by artists and personalities.

Yet creating that is just half the challenge. There's the question of creating "a rational business model" he mentioned. That is, balancing the need for momentum and growth, yet "making sure you're following a sustainable business model, in which you're delivering enough value to your listeners so that they'll pay you for the service" (either by accepting ads or paying a subscription fee).

One solution he offered is for streamers to partner with services with which consumers already have "trusted billing relationships" -- like mobile carriers. Rhapsody itself has partnerships with moblie carriers Metro PCS in the U.S., and E-Plus in Germany. The cost to the consumer is decreased (as its subsidized by the carrier), and it's easier to pay because it's rolled into a bill they already pay. Parntering in this way "takes you down off that $10 price point, you can get actual and perceived reductions in well over 50% for consumers and still give them a great experience," Irwin said.

We have audio of Irwin's speech (and all our RAIN Summit West content) available for free via SoundCloud. Look for the links in the right-hand margin of kurthanson.com. Irwin also published an op-ed summarizing his speech in Hybebot here.

Online radio and music apps will be driver-controllable via BMW Apps option

Friday, March 29, 2013 - 12:05pm

Automaker BMW will integrate dashboard/steering control for Apple iPhone apps that include TuneIn, Rhapsody, and Audible. (Glympse, a fourth app partner, is a location sharing service.)

The apps will be available in the BMW Apps option in model year 2011 and later BMWs, and require an Apple smartphone. The iPhone links to the center console via USB cable or through an available snap-in adapter. All functions can then be operated with the car's iDrive controller, steering wheel buttons, and on-board monitor.

Strategy Analytics Associate Director Roger Lanctot will moderate the "Dashboard Discussions" panel at RAIN Summit West on April 7 in Las Vegas. Lanctot, a leading authority in the automotive technology field, and industry experts will discuss how best radio and webcasting can exploit the new technology that is bringing IP services to the car dashboard. Panelists include TuneIn's Carl Rohling, Panasonic's Hakan Kostepen, jacAPPS' Paul Jacobs, Aha by Harman's Chia-Lin Simmons, and Entercom's Amy Van Hook.

RAIN Summit West will take place April 7th in Las Vegas

Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 1:35pm

RAIN Summits has confirmed Rhapsody International president Jon Irwin as the second keynote speaker for RAIN Summit West, April 7th in Las Vegas.

Rhapsody is the U.S.-based online music subscription service with more than a million subscribers. It offers access to over 16 million tracks on more than 70 consumer electronics devices. Just this month Rhapsody announced a partnership with wireless phone provider MetroPCS allowing customers to add Rhapsody for $5 to its newly simplified select monthly smartphone plans. At the recent Consumer Electronics Show, Rhapsody announced its availability in Ford and Lincoln vehicles with SYNC AppLink.

Irwin, Rhapsody International's top executive, joined Rhapsody America in 2009 as COO and chief of staff. He planned and oversaw Rhapsody's 2010 spinoff from parent RealNetworks into a standalone company. In late 2011 Rhapsody acquired competing service Napster. His specialty has been in building strong subscription businesses, with prior senior positions with Boingo Wireless, Earthlink, InfoNet Services Corporation, and WorldCom. He recently told Inc. magazine he doesn't believe in the "freemium" approach embraced by some of Rhapsody's competitors (RAIN coverage here).

Earlier this month RAIN Summits also announced (here) Radio Advertising Bureau's Erica Farber as a RAIN Summit West keynote speaker.

RAIN Summit West, Internet radio's premiere industry gathering, is held annually in Las Vegas during the week of the NAB Show. Now in its 12th year, the Summit focuses on the intersection of radio and the Internet, and is geared to both broadcasters on the Web (like Clear Channel Radio and CBS Radio), and Internet-only webcasters (Pandora and AccuRadio).

Previous keynote speakers at RAIN Summits include ESPN senior vice president Traug Keller, Pandora founder Tim Westergren, Hubbard Broadcasting (at the time Bonneville International) president and CEO Bruce Reese, NPR SVP/Digital Media Kinsey Wilson, and Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy.

RAIN Summits will announce more speakers and panel topics in the coming weeks. Other RAIN Summits are set for later this year, including Europe in late spring, and Orlando (at the RAB/NAB Radio Show) on September 17th. For information on the event or for sponsorship information contact RAIN Summits president Jennifer LaneRAIN Summit West is a co-located education program of the NAB Show.

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