Yesterday RIM announced on their blog Blackberry Messenger Music (BBM Music). A social music discovery product tied to their popular messenger service. For $4.99 USD a month you get to create a profile of 50 songs that you enjoy and share them with others who are on your BBM friend list who are also subscribed to the BBM Music. All of your BBM friends music profiles get shared so you get access to tons of music that have been pre-filtered for you. It’s like the old days when you heard a song on the radio and wanted to tell your friends all about it and get them listening to it (at least that’s what I did when I went to school). As long as you’re subscribed to the service, you get access to the songs and if you want to permanently purchase it you can do so via the Amazon MP3 Store.
Right now its available as a closed beta (I’m hoping for an invite), however that’s not preventing people from criticizing that the service is too limiting or yelling to get their QNX phones on the market. However because of the muddled message and the slight complexity of how BBM Music works I can see why people would have a hard time thinking that it’s going to be useful.
You Get Access to More than 50 Songs
People are believing that you only get access to 50 songs – that’s not exactly correct. Sure, if have no friends at all, you’d only get to access a very small collections of songs within your profile – but since you have friends, you get much, much more. You get the songs that you added to your profile plus the 50 songs each of your BBM Music friends have added to their profile. So if you have 10 people on your BBM list, you get access to 500 songs. At any time you can swap out 25 songs in any given month from your profile and have them shared with your friends. What people are missing is this is a social music discovery service, its not intended to be an all you can eat subscription service like Spotify. What I find puzzling is why limit to changing your profile to 25 songs? It should be good enough that I can create a profile of 50 songs and that I need to swap those in and out to listen to – you already have one barrier to prevent abuse, why punish me for choosing “My Heart Will Go On” just because my friends have bad music taste?
BBM Is Addictive – Stop the Bleeding
Since BBM is one of the most beloved features for existing Blackberry users, making it more attractive to increase its usage and make it more addictive is a good move. RIM sales are in decline, at least they are in North America (in Europe they’re doing pretty well actually). Between now and when they release their new phones in Q1 2012 a big part of their goal is to protect their user base from eroding any further. The Next Web reports that 67% of Blackberry users want to move to the iPhone, however BBM Music is nice little bobble to keep users happy until more attractive phones appear in the future.
Recurring Revenue is the Golden Egg
Even if BBM Music doesn’t increase the current Blackberry user base, it does have an opportunity to get more revenue into RIM’s hands on a regular basis. Right now, the Blackberry manufacturer doesn’t have much of a direct relationship with its customers; they buy applications on an irregular basis and they have closer ties with their cellular phone provider. This is RIM’s first notable subscription service where money flows directly through them and not through a 3rd party like soup cans tied together with string… getting a customer to continually pay you directly month after month without much effort is fantastic. That’s the reason’s why Apple has MobileMe, iCloud – subscription services are king – if you stopped selling product you’d still be able to say “Show me the Money!”
Canada Still Gets Screwed
Although Canada is RIM’s backyard, I bet this country will still be screwed. The Amazon MP3 store is still not available here so purchasing music is off the table which makes the BBM Music a very limiting service in this country as you’d have to actually head to another music store to buy tracks that you like (ie. iTunes or head to some other dubious site to get your music). Companies for some reason have a very difficult time negotiating music and other entertainment distribution rights in Canada preventing innovative services like Spotify and Pandora from doing business… anyway, I’ll leave that rant for another time.
…but is it Justin Bieber?
Can this service bring droves of people into the land of the Blackberry? Probably not, but it may be one of multiple services that RIM may have up their sleeves that will create a compelling story to attract new users. I have a big concern with the 25 song changes a month, but without actually playing with BBM Music there’s no real good way to tell at the moment.