When I write about the Rhapsody music service, I usually say nice things but express some caution about its pricing: $15 a month if you want to be able to listen on both computers and mobile devices. Well, the service just spun off from parent company RealNetworks, and its first big move as an independent entity is a major price cut. Rhapsody is now $9.99 a month for a plan that includes unlimited listening on computers and via an iPhone/iPod Touch (and presumably iPad) or Android device.
Traditional archrival Napster starts lower–$7 a month, or $5 if you subscribe in three-month or yearly chunks–and throws in credits good for free MP3 downloads. But Napster doesn’t have the iPhone and Android apps, and still wants $15 a month for a plan with access to the (obscure) mobile devices it does support. Of course, both services also compete with a bevy of other ways to get digital music, including ones with freebie offerings, such as Pandora, Slacker, and Lala. But Rhapsody and Napster provide on-demand access to giant music catalogs.
Subscription music remains a concept that’s theoretically compelling but which has never become a breakout hit. Between the new lower price and the mobile apps, Rhapsody is providing something more appealing than any previous subscription service. (I live in the U.S., so I’m not counting Spotify.) It’ll be fascinating to see if a 33% price cut has a major effect on folks’ perceptions.
Related side note: When I was checking out Rhapsody and Napster this morning, I found that both services’ pricing pages involve tiny women who walk into the lower right-hand corner and givie you an audible sales pitch.
I wonder if they know each other?