When it comes to the ever-escalating streaming music wars, Rhapsody may not be the first service that comes to mind, but the service should at least be in the conversation, especially thanks to recent developments. Rhapsody just announced the service has now acquired three million paid subscribers globally, placing the service third behind Spotify (20 million paid subscribers), and Deezer (six million paid users abroad).
Apple Music, it’s worth noting, is said to have “millions and millions” of subscribers according to CEO Tim Cook’s Q3 earnings call, but we’ll hold off on ranking the service until its free three-month trial has expired.
While Rhapsody has been around since 2001, it only amassed two million paying subscribers as of last summer. But recent developments, including a cheaper Pandora-like streaming feature called unRadio, and partnerships with mobile carriers like T-Mobile, have helped make 50 percent year-over-year growth possible for the streamer.
“Two things are really driving (the growth),” said Rhapsody EVP Thorsten Schliesche to Music Ally. “On one hand, our direct-to-consumer business. But the second pillar is our partner business, especially with mobile operators, which has really helped to facilitate the growth.” Schliesche further explained that that the company is particularly excited about growth in Latin America, where several countries have recently developed the infrastructure for better mobile phone connectivity.
As the company continues to compete with Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and Deezer (which isn’t available in the US), Schliesche says Rhapsody is not too worried about its customers switching services. “The market will concentrate on the key players, and you will see acquisitions of the smaller players, with some maybe disappearing completely,” he said. “But huge competition and services trying to steal customers from each other? I do not expect that … The majority of people coming in now are people who are new to streaming, not people who are switching services.”
That being said, Rhapsody – like Spotify and other competitors — is not profitable and is a comparatively small fish in a big pond. The service is undoubtedly concerned about Apple Music’s boasted numbers. And, at 75 million total users (paid and ad-based subscriptions), Spotify’s total user base is 25 times its size.
But, like its competitors, Rhapbsody is consistently in development, recently launching a ‘Music Inbox’ feature (similar to Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist) and the service is optimistic. “Our goal is just to distribute music to more people and have them pay for it,” said Rhapsody CFO Ethan Rudin to Billboard in February. That’s something any music industry vet can get behind.