In 2012, Rhapsody nabbed the European assets of streaming service Napster, covering the UK and Germany, to fill out its 2011 acquisition of Napster in the U.S., as part of its strategy to square up globally to Spotify and other online music rivals. Today, it’s putting that reach to use as Rhapsody is expanding its unRadio service for the first time outside of the U.S. The news comes as Rhapsody says that it has now passed 2 million paying subscribers between its eponymous music streaming app, Napster and unRadio.
To put that number into context, Rhapsody and Napster are now available in 32 countries, and they passed 1 million subscribers way back in 2011. The company is also competing against some juggernauts. Spotify in May this year said it had 10 million paying users, with 40 million overall.
When Rhapsody launched its unRadio service — a Pandora-style curated service that’s been created in part to attract less die-hard music fans but also to market the more premium on-demand streaming service — last month, it did so in partnership with T-Mobile in the U.S. It’s following the same pattern in Europe, partnering with number-two French mobile operator SFR. (France’s leading mobile carrier, Orange, is an investor in another large competitor in the space, Deezer.)
For the French launch, the service is going under Napster Découverte (Napster Discovery), and will give users the same service options as in the original service in the U.S.: while the list is pre-selected by Napster/Rhapsody, listeners can skip as many songs as they want to, and, because they are paying €3.95, listen ad-free. Marking a song as a favorite gives users the option to listen to it again later, even offline.
“We are very satisfied with the development of Napster in France and the successful co-operation with SFR,” said Thorsten Schliesche, Napster SVP and GM for Europe, noted in a statement. “France is one of the fastest growing markets in Europe. The success of our service proves that customers are eager for a blend of on-demand and mobile data bundles.”
Rhapsody/Napster are also digging deeper in the Latin America with another European carrier deal. Telefonica Movistar, the Spanish carrier’s operation in South America, will be “actively promoting” Napster Premier in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay — an extension of a strategic partnership between the two launched last year.
All fine and well, but in a game of scale, where we are starting to see some very clear leaders, will Napster, despite its legendary, renegade brand, have what it takes to win over new users, keep margins and overall revenues strong, and maintain bargaining power with labels large and small? Right now the company says its catalogue totals some 32 million tracks, with about 80% of listening on its platform happening on mobile devices.