BlackBerry makes music social with BBM Music

Research in Motion, the company behind the BlackBerry brand, has announced that it is getting into the music business with the launch of a new service: BBM Music. 

The new offering, which will cost just $4.99 a month, will allow BlackBerry Messenger users to listen and share music with friends in a very different way from services like Spotify. 

"It’s a service that allows people to discover and share music with each other," Alistair Mitchell, VP of BBM Platform & Integrated Services told Pocket-lint on a 1-2-1 call from the US. “We haven’t created just a music service and layered on social, it is social from the beginning."

The idea is that users who sign up to the service are given 50 tracks to best "describe" themselves musically and then after that have the ability to share those tracks and share their friends' tracks to better enjoy the service. The more you share with other users the more tracks you have access to. 

Every friend you add gives you the ability to listen to another 50 tracks. Users who share with 10 other users, for example, will be able to access and play 500 tracks a month all for the same $4.99. 

Acknowledging that music "moves with the times" RIM is allowing users to switch out up to 25 tracks a month to create a moving music library, all the time sharing with friends. 

"It’s an interesting and daunting task to choose 50 songs to describe who you are musically," Mitchell tells Pocket-lint having gone through the process himself. “The experience is a constantly evolving and bubbling experience."

Users who sign up to the beta service will be able to make comments on friends' songs, as well as create playlists from their own playlists or tracks from others, and then ultimately see a timeline of tracks from themselves and their friends on how they’ve chosen their 50 tracks - changes and all. 

With 10 million songs available and all the major labels associated (including Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI), RIM is confident that you are unlikely to luck out when finding a track, but acknowledge that they won’t have everything. 

"We are adding more songs," adds Mitchell when we questioned whether 10 million is enough to go against the plethora of online music services already out there. "It will be released in the Fall [that’s autumn for UK readers] in 15 countries. We are putting a lot of emphasis on making sure the music choice is relevant to those countries."

A closed (limited) beta trial of the BBM Music service is starting 25 August in Canada, the United States and the UK. The BBM Music service is expected to be commercially available to customers later this year for a monthly subscription of $4.99 USD in Australia, Canada, Columbia, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

The idea is that whether you live in Canada or Cambridge your favourite bands are covered.  

To access the new music offering there will be a new BBM Music app that will act as the main hub to sharing and enjoying the new music offering going forward. Users will be able to shuffle through everyone’s playlist or create playlists from their own collection. Like Spotify, music will be streamed to users, however there will be an offline mode that will cache music locally so you can listen to the music on the Tube, or when you aren’t in service.

“It’s a lot more social that the other services. It’s a service people who want to have a conversation about music will want to have,” adds Mitchell. “People love BBM and we think music is a great fit with that. We think it’s a natural way our platform can be expressed.”

If you’re wondering how RIM will make cash off the service in addition to the $4.99 subscription, it is all about the now. Users will be offered the chance to buy any of the music including that 25 track change, via the usual BlackBerry music partners. 

The new service will be available as a closed beta service for users of BlackBerry OS5, BB OS6, and BB OS7 making it perfect for the new bevy of smartphones like the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and the newly announced BlackBerry Curve 9360. Sadly it is not PlayBook friendly at the moment explains Mitchell, however we get the feeling it will be eventually.