Thanks to the hype surrounding Spotify’s U.S. launch this summer, the question on everyone’s mind when they talk about signing up for one of the all you can eat music services out there is “How much free music can I get?”So far, both MOG and Rdio have jumped on to the free music plan trend, offering “gas tanks” of music that deplete as you listen.
You can earn more music by doing things like sharing your listening activity with friends on Twitter or Facebook, but at the end of the day, you’re stuck with a finite number of hours or tracks you can listen to.
But Rhapsody, the company that has been in the music streaming business for almost a decade, doesn’t want to follow the rest of the pack. Instead, Rhapsody plans to see how the market reacts to the free plans and see if the conversion rate to paid packages are sustainable enough to try it too, says the company’s president Jon Irwin.
We had a long interview with Irwin about Rhapsody’s plans for gaining more users. For now, “free” isn’t on the table, he says.
Instead, Irwin says Rhapsody plans to leverage its recent acquisition of Napster to start moving its business outside the United States. Napster has a very strong user base overseas that will help get things jump started.
Over the next few months, Napster users will start seeing their playlists, favourites, etc. migrate to Rhapsody. By the end of the year, Napster users will be added to Rhapsody’s 800,000 user base. (Irwin wouldn’t tell us how many Napster users Rhapsody is acquiring.)
Wireless Carrier And Cable Provider Partnerships
Aside from the Napster plans, Rhapsody has another interesting strategy we have yet to see competitors talk about. Irwin told us about a deal between Rhapsody and the budget wireless carrier Metro PCS that’s already in place.
Right now, when a customer buys a $60 unlimited plan through Metro PCS along with an Android phone, they get automatic access to Rhapsody as part of their contract. In one swoop, Rhapsody now has the ability to tap into Metro PCS’s 9 million customers.
The deal is in its infancy, but if it catches on, Irwin says he’d like to work out similar deals with the larger carriers like Verizon and AT&T.
There’s also talk of partnering with cable providers to tie Rhapsody into your cable service. Say goodbye to those ~100 Music Choice channels. Instead, Irwin envisions one channel that has all the music you want on demand. Irwin says there aren’t any deals in place with cable or satellite providers, but he’s working to lock something down. To make things even better, music labels love the idea.
Don’t Give Up On Free Music Just Yet
Despite Rhapsody’s alternative strategy of partnering with cable providers and wireless carriers, Irwin says he hasn’t ruled out offering a free plan similar to the ones on Spotify, MOG, and Rdio.
In fact, Rhapsody already has agreements set with the big music labels that would allow a free streaming plan. Irwin even hints the deal could allow more free music than Rhapsody’s competitors since the company has a longer relationship with the labels.
But Rhapsody plans to watch how free plans work with other services. If the competition sees success in converting free users to paid users, Irwin says he just needs to “flip the switch” on Rhapsody’s free plan.
For now, the company will stick with its standard 30-day free trial to suck users in.
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