Rhapsody reaches 2M subscribers, bets on new unRadio service

Rhapsody International, which operates the Rhapsody and Napster music services, said Tuesday it plans to expand in France and Latin America as a result of deals with mobile operators SRF and Telefonica.

The streaming music company said it had reached 2 million paying subscribers for both its premium music services and the Rhapsody unRadio Internet radio service it launched in tandem with T-Mobile US last month.

Launched as way back as 2001, Rhapsody trails behind later entrants like Spotify which claims some 10 million paying subscribers. It may soon face stiff competition from players like Amazon.com, Apple and Google, which are at various stages of having their own music services.

The European Commission on Monday cleared Apple’s proposed US$3 billion acquisition of Beats Electronics, a headphone maker, and its Beats Music streaming music service.

Rhapsody said in April it had 1.7 million subscribers worldwide for both Rhapsody and Napster services across 32 countries.

The advertisement-free unRadio service allows users to skip songs, and mark their favorite songs to save and listen to them at any time even without a connection.

T-Mobile offered the service at no extra cost to customers who were subscribed to a package on its unlimited 4G LTE data service. The operator announced that unRadio would be available at a discounted price of $4 per month for other T-Mobile customers. Rhapsody separately priced the service at $4.99 per month, offering it free to current users of its premium service.

Rhapsody now plans to extend the service to Europe. The Napster division and French mobile operator SFR will offer the unRadio service in France under the Napster brand, as Napster Decouverte. The service will be priced at €3.95 per month.

Under an earlier agreement with Telefonica, by which select businesses of the operator in Europe and Latin America will deliver the Napster premier music service to mobile and fixed line customers, Napster and Telefonica have launched the Napster premier service in several new countries, including Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.

Assets of the Napster business, which started as a file-sharing site, were acquired by Rhapsody from Best Buy in December 2011. The Napster brand is used outside the U.S.

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