Have you found yourself thinking lately, “Hey, I wish there were more subscription-based music services available to me as a consumer?”
Right. We thought not.
But apparently no one notified Sony, who unveiled its Music Unlimited service in the U.K. and Ireland this week boasting a catalog of approximately 6 million titles from Universal Music, Warner Music, EMI Music and Sony Music. Sony has plans to expand the Music Unlimited to the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Italy and Spain in 2011.
The service, powered by Sony’s Qriocity (pronounced: curiosity) entertainment platform, is being offered at two price levels. The basic plan, for £3.99 euros/month, is similar to an ad-free internet radio station but will allow users to skip forward at will (think Pandora or Last.fm). The premium version for £9.99 euros/month grants users the ability to play songs from the entire catalog on demand. Users at either level will also be able to sync info from their music libraries into the subscription cloud.
“So let’s see,” wrote Guardian authors Josh Halliday and Charles Arthur, putting some skepticism on the announcement. “Spotify with ads for free, or Sony MUPBQ for £3.99 every month for ever and ever?”
Perhaps the biggest draw is that Music Unlimited will be compatible with Sony’s array of consumer electronics. Internet-connected Blu-Ray players, Bravia television sets, and the Playstation 3 console will be able to use it, and so will Sony smart phones and computers. Smart phones running Google’s Android operating system will have an app that runs it, though it does not appear to be compatible with the iPhone at present.
As the LA Times points out, one major hurdle facing Sony and Music Unlimited is the fact that a myriad of similar products are already available in Europe and the U.S. Spotify (based in Sweden) has been a huge hit in Europe, largely due to it being a free, ad-supported service that works with multiple platforms. In the U.S., consumers have subscription options like Rhapsody, MOG, Rdio and more, all of which already work with numerous phone platforms including the iPhone.