Introducing: Rara, A Music Subscription Service For Everyone Else?

Posted December 13

2011 was undoubtedly the year that the music subscription service race really started amping up (in no small part due to the entry of Spotify into the U.S. market), so it’s no surprise that yet another service hit the ground running today: Rara, a brand-new product powered by Omnifone and designed to appeal to everyone out there who is thoroughly confused by the very prospect of digital music.

WHAT IS RARA?

OK, so first we’ll bust out with the basics:

1). Rara is both a web app and an Android app (available on iOS soon) that allows users to access 10 million tracks (from all the major labels and indies) both on-demand and in the form of curated playlists.

2). It will be available in 18 markets. It’s launching in 16 today, including including the USA, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

3). For the first three months, it will cost 99 cents per month online and $1.99 for online and mobile. After three months, it will cost $4.99 on the computer and $9.99 for mobile, desktop and other devices.

So far so average, right? Well, here’s where Rara attempts to prove the naysayers wrong:

APPEALING TO THE MASSES

The main goal of Rara, according to Director Tim Hadley, is to appeal to the mass market of consumers, rather than hardcore music fans. This is the differentiating factor that Hadley and Co. hopes will answer the question: “Uh, why ANOTHER music subscription service?” (see above)

“We did some research 18 months ago looking into music consumption and we found that the vast majority of consumers aren’t actually doing digital music yet,” says Tim Hadley, director of Rara. “The main services that are being provided today are focused on about 20% of the market, and those are the people that are actually paying for music on a regular basis.”

The other 80% is who Rara hopes to appeal to: people who still buy CDs, who still listen to the radio, etc. We’re not quite sure what the methodology of Rara’s research was — just that they used a sample group of 1,000 adults — but we’re not exactly sure the findings prove that there’s a need for simpler product. Instead, it seems more indicative of the fact that tech adoption needs to start somewhere.

For example, according to a recent study by Pew, 35% of all U.S. adults have a smartphone. Compare that to a study done by Nielsen in 2009, which showed that 21% of American wireless subscribers were using a smartphone that year.

There are a couple of takeaways to glean from this example: 1). New technology, although embraced rabidly by early adopters, has yet to reach the mass market (in which case, why would people with feature phones need something like Rara?), 2). New tech is on the rise, but the going is relatively slow. We’re not going to reach 100% adoption in a few years (hell, some the U.S. population doesn’t even have broadband).

Music subscription services may have been around for years and failed to really take off — Rhapsody is basically a grandpa by now — but we’ve seen a pretty high adoption rate of Spotify since it went stateside and integrated with Facebook. It’s a little too soon to say that available services are missing the mark.

RARA AS A PRODUCT

Consequently, we’re not quite sure that the simpler approach was a lock when it comes to Rara as a product. It boasts about as many songs as other music services (if not fewer than some) and its interface isn’t really all that different: Yes, it has a bunch of curated channels, but so do services like Slacker Radio and Pandora, and if we’re looking for a slick UI, Rdio wins that crown hands-down (Rara’s graphical scheme is very heavy on the gimmicky Clip Art).

We do like the fact that Rara did away with offline caching when it comes to its mobile product (apparently, all your music will be available on mobile automatically — even offline), but since it’s a web app, the same can’t be said for your desktop. If you lose Internet connectivity, you lose access to your tunes.

SO SHOULD YOU USE IT?

If you’re already using a music subscription service, we see no real compelling reason to make a switch to Rara, and if you’re one of the music service newbies out there looking to try out digital music, well, it’s up to you. If you want to keep your music listening simple — without all the social interaction of Rdio and Spotify’s apps — sure, go ahead. But if you want to take off the training wheels eventually and really get the most out of your music-listening experience, we recommend looking at one of the established music services already available.

By Brenna Ehrlich