Internet music services generally come in two versions: You can listen for free, but you’ll have to put up with ads and restrictions — or you can pay $10 a month, and listen to whatever you want, whenever you want.
Here’s a new version: “Rhapsody unRadio,” which falls somewhere in the middle.
It is ad-free, and offers more features than free Web radio services like Pandora, but fewer than subscription services like Spotify. And it will be priced between the two, at up to $5 a month.
UnRadio comes from Rhapsody, which has its own full-priced subscription service. But you’re most likely to encounter it if you’re a T-Mobile customer.
The carrier is partnering with Rhapsody, and will promote the service and offer discounts on it. And if you use T-Mobile’s top-tier “Simple Choice Unlimited Plan,” which sells for $80 a month, the carrier will throw in unRadio for free.
Which is unRadio’s best chance of success. The nuances between unRadio’s feature set and its rivals make sense if you know a lot about the digital music industry — it’s not “DMCA-compliant” Web radio, which means you can skip as many songs as you want, and can download up to 25 songs to keep on your devices — but they are likely to be lost on most people.
And even those who get the difference might not care.
Pandora has some 77 million active users in the U.S., and they seem to be okay with its restrictions and ads. Or at the very least, they don’t care enough to pay to remove them. Spotify, the dominant music subscription service, has 10 million paying customers spread out across dozens of countries.
But a push from T-Mobile could mean a lot, if the carrier pulls it off correctly. And if that does work, it means Rhapsody could have a new set of customers to try to upsell into its $10-a-month core service.
Side note: Rhapsody says it will offer unRadio for both Android and iOS users. It also says it will allow iOS users to sign up for the service from within the app — which means that Apple will get 30 percent of any subscription revenue Rhapsody acquires that way.
For a $5 service, that will leave Rhapsody just $3.50 a month in gross revenue. The company seems to think that’s enough — or that it’s worth it, at least, to reach Apple’s user base.