Rara.com brings digital music to the forgotten masses

A new music streaming service has hit the web aimed squarely at the mass market. Rara.com is a UK-based, all-devices, ad-free, paid-for experience that’s designed to capture the 80-odd per cent of the users out there who’ve never gone digital before.

The pulls are supposed to be an incredibly simple user interface, operated either through a web application or smartphone/tablet app; an experience accessed more through moods and genres rather than the artists per se, and a starter offer of the first three months available for just 99p each or £1.99 if you’re after the mobile service as well.

After that period expires, prices get jacked up to the full and familiar £4.99 per month for the standard service and £9.99 for the cached, on the move experience. At the same time, it’s these rates that will cause a frustration for those in the EU and UK who see the same figures as in euros and pounds but with a dollar sign stuck on the front for our North American cousins, meaning that those over the Pond are, relatively speaking, quids in.

At launch, users in 18 countries will have access to approximately 10 million tracks from the four majors and a clutch of independent labels that has, of course, been promised to grow by Rara chief and founder of Omnifone Rob Lewis. Indeed, it’s Omnifone that will be powering the service behind the scenes in the same way that it currently pulls the music service strings for Sony and RIM.

“This is a service for people who don't know about building playlists, downloading apps and who get confused by the site of album art,” said Lewis at the launch event in London.

“We've literally had grandmothers in our testing rooms to make sure that they can use it.”

UPDATE: Rara's streams are encoded as eAAC+ at bitrates anywhere between 48-72 kbps with no MP3 nor other downloads available whatsoever. The idea behind the choice of technology is to minimise the strain on your data allowance, should you opt for the mobile service, making Lewis confident that freely using Rara on the go will have no significant impact on the possibility of breaking your service provider's monthly limits at all.

The music caching management service via mobile is entirely taken care of by what’s called the Network Aware Mobile Streaming system. It dictates which tracks are available when out of connection based on your listening habits and will simply grey out anything that you can’t get until you’re back in the room. The Android application is available from launch with iOS and Windows Phone 7 versions coming in a matter of weeks.

As for other hardware, Rara will come as the default music player on HP laptops from 2012 and Lewis hinted that the company will be announcing more device partners at its CES press conference in January. He was keen to impress the importance of the automotive space in particular.

Rara’s final weapon of attack will be to get a string of artists to help curate the music playlists, genres and suggestions along with the backbone of the behind the scenes Rara staff. The service launches with Grammy-winning Imogen Heap at the helm with more to follow.

Her name, combined with an aggressive advertising campaign across all media is what Lewis hopes will convince the 900 million-strong market in the countries where Rara has launched to sign up rather than the current 5 million world wide total who currently bother with music streaming services.

You can access Rara.com from 1pm in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland and see for yourself whether you’re ready to be convinced. The US, Mexico and Canada will have to wait until a little later in the week.

Have you got time for yet another music service? Does this one sound like something that finally might get you interested? Let us know in the comments.