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

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Issue Date: 
May 22 2013 - 6:20pm

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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.

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