Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Rara Sells Streaming Music to Everyone Who Hasn’t Heard of Streaming Music

You get your legal music on the Web from services like Apple, Amazon, Google, Spotify and Pandora. Also, perhaps, from services like Rhapsody, MOG and Rdio, etc.

Yet here comes one more, via The U.K.-based company launches in 18 countries today, selling a streaming music service to an audience that either hasn’t heard of streaming music services or is baffled by the existing ones.

The basics: Rara is run by Rob Lewis, the founder of Omnifone, which powers music services for the likes of Sony and Research In Motion — as well as Rara. For $5 a month, users get unlimited, ad-free streaming music delivered via the Web; for $10, users get to take their music on the go, via an Android app (an Apple app is coming, Lewis says).

In other words, it’s exactly the same model offered by the likes of Rhapsody, and very similar to the one offered by Spotify. Except Spotify offers a free, ad-supported service as well.

So why bother launching another competitor? Lewis argues that:

  • Existing music services are more complicated than they should be.
  • Most people don’t use the legal music services that are out there.

True on both counts. Figuring out how to sync music across devices, or how to cache songs on your phone, can be difficult even for people who pay attention to this stuff for a living (cough).

And there are perhaps five million people worldwide paying a monthly fee for music. Which is many more than there were a few years ago, but a tiny number in the grand scheme of music listeners.

And, so … what? Lewis argues that Rara offers an incredibly easy interface, with plenty of preprogrammed stations for people who like music but don’t want to work for it. I haven’t used it myself, so I can’t argue with him on those counts. But I’m not sure about the notion that there are lots of people who would pay for streaming music, but don’t because it’s too complicated. I figure most people don’t pay for streaming music because they’re satisfied with the free options they have.

In any case, we get to find out now. Rara is launching with an assist from Hewlett-Packard, which is embedding links to the service on some of its PCs. It’s also offering a three-month trial for 99 cents a month.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik