Rhapsody, Spotify headed for showdown

Categories: Hearsay

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Music streaming services look more and more like they'll eventually do to MP3s what MP3s did to CDs, and what CDs did to tapes, and so on. We're still a long way from a paradigm shift, but as the popular European streaming service Spotify makes headway in its mission to invade America, Rhapsody is fighting back, and the future is suddenly quite a bit closer.

First, an introduction to the two services: Both allow you to stream music from your computer. Both also allow you to buy songs in the MP3 format, and both have a variety of bells and whistles involving playlists, social media and mobile devices. The crucial difference is that Spotify lets you stream music completely for free and only charges for its premium service, whereas Rhapsody charges no matter what.

Spotify has over ten million users worldwide, but only 750,000 of them are premium subscribers. Rhapsody, meanwhile, has 750,000 users (all paying, of course).

Spotify has been working to get the licensing rights it would need to open in the U.S. So far, it's worked out deals with EMI and Sony, and just needs to figure out a way to get Universal and Warner on board before it can open. Rhapsody, hearing footsteps, has expanded its free trial from fifteen days to sixty days, presumably in a bid to gather as many users under its umbrella as it can before it gets its first really major competition in the U.S.

You, the music fan, are the benefactor of this mad scramble, because in the two months that you're enjoying Rhapsody's free trial, Spotify will almost certainly have opened here. One of the big problems Spotify has encountered is the way licensing fees work in this country; they do not distinguish financially free play rights from pay-to-play rights.

So, under all the existing models, Spotify would have to pay Sony just as much for every free user playing a Britney Spears song as it would for every premium user. What is unclear is whether the labels have cut Spotify some deal that will allow Spotify to take its existing free streaming option to this country, or if Spotify has made some concession. Possibly it will work the way LaLa (owned now by Apple) used to, where you could listen to anything once for free.

Music streaming sites currently exist as a tiny minority in the overall landscape. But as people move more and more to smart phones and tablets (which are not really designed for on-board storage of MP3s), and Internet connections get faster, more reliable and more relied upon for media consumption, that tiny share will start to grow exponentially. The question is, who will be providing the streams?

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8 comments
Pierre_the_mad
Pierre_the_mad

Who cares when you can use a nice piece of software like subsonic to stream your own unlimited music collection stored on your on hard drive.

RhapsodyUser
RhapsodyUser

Sad that the Rhapsody forums are so full of people not even grasping the concept of streaming with their subscription...Most people still think of online music services as "downloading" - and then there's iTunes, which people still latch onto for whatever reason, even with its clunky interface...

I hope Rhapsody survives. Perhaps this competition will also force them to improve. Their client software is still clunky too. Their streaming app is less than stellar. Their customer service handles calls in India (unless you get tier 2 support, which is in the U.S.).

I've had Rhapsody for years. Giving that up would be difficult. Spotify streaming in higher quality (320kbps), may give me cause to consider it. That, and their website is pretty clean. Very interested in their mobile app. If it works better than Rhapsody, I would be forced to consider their service, even after years of Rhapsody...

Biggest problem with somebody like me migrating from Rhapsody is my "Library" (bookmarks, basically) of over 15,000 tracks... rebuilding that on another service would take forever. Also have to wonder how comparable the selection is. Rhapsody does have some things that other services don't, but is also missing some that others have... Always a tradeoff I guess.

Whatever happens, I will probably stay w/Rhapsody for simplicity's sake - I've had it for ages, their based out of America, and they were here first ;)

Kiernan Maletsky
Kiernan Maletsky

That's very true, but it seems to me like both Android and iOS are really both set up to operate more efficiently on the cloud. The app method of navigation doesn't lend itself to moving, uploading, using, etc. hard files.

You are certainly right that the people building these devices are getting more and more storage onboard, but I think that won't always be a priority.

RhapsodyUser
RhapsodyUser

Definitely agree - Though I have 8GB of storage on my droid, the Rhapsody app is "just there" and can play ANYTHING on their service :D ...why bog down my storage needlessly? On the flipside, I could load some stuff that isn't available to stream (Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Tool, for example) and use "the cloud" for whatever else.

It's just insane that Spotify can stream for free with zero subscription... Rhapsody had better step up their game if these folks can just "come ashore" like this and play such a 'Trump card' in their face...

Honestly, I'm also surprised that it's taken over a decade since Napster for "the industry" to figure all this out. Lot can change in 10+ years. Article is correct in stating that streaming did (is doing, and will do) what CDs did to tapes, etc...

I've waited YEARS to be able to have Rhapsody on my phone. Now that I finally have it (yes, it still needs some work, but it does work!) here comes some other service, from OUT OF THE COUNTRY no less, claiming it'll be better in so many ways... I see it as a blessing and a curse - Rhapsody had better step up to the challenge here if they want to keep customers and differentiate themselves, let alone be leaders in any form in this new frontier.

Glover
Glover

"But as people move more and more to smart phones and tablets (which are not really designed for on-board storage of MP3s)"

- If anything they're becoming more and more designed for onboard storage of mp3s - the latest Samsung has 32GB of onboard storage which you can expand to 64GB with an microSD card. That's plenty of space for most mp3 listeners.

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