Why RIM's BBM Music Service is Destined to Fail

BlackBerry-maker RIM today unveiled a brand new, cloud-based music-streaming service for BlackBerry users, BBM Music. But CIO.com's Al Sacco isn't impressed and offers up five solid reasons why BBM Music may be doomed from the get-go.

Thu, August 25, 2011

CIO — Research In Motion (RIM) (RIM) today made official the rumored "BBM Music" service, which is meant to enable "social and viral music discovery by allowing users to build an evolving, community-based music library that is shared amongst their BBM Music friends."

In short, BlackBerry users will pay RIM $5 a month, select 50 songs from RIM's cloud-based music catalogue, and then stream and share those tunes with their BlackBerry-Messenger-using friends.

Screen Shots of RIM's New BBM Music Service
Screen Shots of RIM's New BBM Music Service

The sharing means that BBM Music users gain access to every individual BBM friends' 50 songs. Basically, though you only get to select 50 songs a month for yourself, in reality, you have access to and can listen to many more tunes, since every one of your BBM-Music-using friends adds all of their selections to your shared library. You can also "swap out" 25 of your specific 50 songs, once a month.

BBM Music is currently available in beta-form, and only a select few have access to the service at this point. But RIM says it will become widely available "later this year."

Sounds interesting enough, right? Unfortunately, BBM Music is fundamentally flawed, and I'm already questioning its long-term viability. Here are a few reasons why.

BBM Music Focus is on Sharing

BBM Music is really a music sharing service, and not a traditional online music retailer like Apple's (AAPL) iTunes or Amazon MP3. And I'm not really sure consumers are willing to pay for the privilege of sharing digital tunes, even if the cost is only $5 per month, since plenty of other free methods for song-sharing and music discovery already exist.

For example, many of my online friends often share information on who or what they're listening to via social networks like Twitter or Facebook--and even BBM, thanks to a "Show What I'm Listening To" feature within RIM's mobile IM app. If I'm interested in something one of my connections is listening to, I'll pop on over to Amazon, have a quick listen of the song preview and buy it if I like what I hear. If the song isn't brand new, I'll often check YouTube or other music sites to see if the entire track is available for free streaming before I buy. And this works fine for me.

Also, I feel that popular music today mostly sucks. And I'm guessing that despite RIM's partnership with four leading music companies--Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group (WMG) and EMI--and the "millions of available songs," many of my favorite, obscure tunes from lesser-known bands won't be available. (And I already own those tunes anyway, but more on that in the next section.)

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