Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

BlackBerry’s New Music Service Doesn’t Sound Like a Complete Disaster

It’s very hard not to beat on Research In Motion these days. The company behind the once-iconic BlackBerry almosts begs you to do it.

And when word broke yesterday that RIM was working with the music labels to launch yet another music service, it was time to reach — slowly, because at this point who really cares? — for the bat again.

But it’s possible that RIM may not have a half-bad idea here: A scaled-back feature that gives some of its remaining customers something they’d like, and not much more.

As described by The Wall Street Journal’s Ethan Smith, the new service will give users access to a mere 50 songs at a time, and will let them share the songs with their friends via BlackBerry Messenger.

Is that it? For RIM’s sake, I hope so. Because at a certain price, it sort of makes sense: Yes, everyone says they want access to an unlimited world of music. But lots of people listen to the same small group of songs over and over.

And if RIM is smart — I know — they won’t position it as a competitor to Apple’s dominant iTunes, or the subscription services like Spotify that have yet to take off. They’ll sell it as a cool way to show off your favorite few songs of the moment, and tell your friends about it.

Again, if this works, it will depend on pricing — a couple bucks a month would make sense — and execution. And RIM hasn’t given us much reason to think it will get either element right. But the modest scope of RIM’s ambitions — pulling this off sure isn’t as hard as making a credible iPad competitor — gives them a shot here.

And if BBM Music does work, it wouldn’t be a reason to buy a new BlackBerry, but it might make you happier you own one. And that would be a modest win for a company searching for any kind of victory, anywhere.

And now, just because I can, a Rick Rubin Queen remix from back in the days when mobile phones were shoe-sized:

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work