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Rhapsody bets on carrier partnerships to grow its music service

Edgar Alvarez, @abcdedgar
July 29, 2014
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Rhapsody International, the parent company of music-streaming services Rhapsody and Napster, has just announced it is now home to two million paid subscribers. That sum may not seem like a lot at first glance, especially when compared to the 10 million figure Spotify revealed back in May, but Rhapsody still sees this as a great accomplishment. Even though it continues to play catch-up to crowd-favorite Spotify, Rhapsody claims this makes it the clear "number two" streaming service in terms of adoption, ahead of others like Rdio, Deezer and Beats Music. The two million premium subscribers to date, which combines accounts from Rhapsody, Rhapsody unRadio and Napster, have been made possible largely by the company's international expansions and partnerships with carriers -- in the US under the Rhapsody brand, Napster everywhere else.

Today, as part of this mobile-focused strategy, Rhapsody is teaming up with French network SFR to launch Napster Discovery (aka Rhapsody unRadio here in the States), an ad-free, Pandora-like unlimited music service that lets users listen to any track they want for €3.95 per month. Across the pond, in Latin America, Movistar will be offering Napster's paid music service to customers who haven't had access to it before, including those in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, with more countries expected to be added by the end of the year. With joint ventures like these, Rhapsody hopes to keep growing and, more importantly, remain relevant in a space so obviously owned by the giant force that is Spotify.

"We believe really strongly there can be multiple products to serve different people."

Rhapsody's SVP, Americas and Chief Product Officer, Paul Springer, told us it's also about the approach his team takes with each audience, curating the listening experience based on a user's location, since people in different countries may not have the same artist preferences. Springer believes features of this kind are why Rhapsody has a chance among music lovers, and why it can co-exist with Spotify. "We believe really strongly there can be multiple products to serve different people," he said. "There's room for both [Rhapsody and Spotify], because we have a product that will suit you."

For Rhapsody, the challenge isn't having a product that's worth it, but rather convincing people that it's a better choice than Spotify or a newcomer like Beats Music. And that's where the carriers come in: because they make it easy for potential subs to sign up, before the rest of the streaming services even have a chance to get to them.

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