Is BlackBerry Music going to be a waste of time?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| Published: August 20, 2011

Research In Motion is on the cusp of releasing plenty of new devices, and it looks like the company is getting ready to jump into a brand field. RIM isn’t a stranger to trying new things out – it wasn’t too long ago that they launched their very first tablet device, the BlackBerry PlayBook, after all. Whether or not that really worked out for RIM is up to discussion, and we’re more than likely going to get another shot at another similar conversation sometime in the Fall, if the Waterloo-based company’s rumored BlackBerry Music launches when reports say it will. But, is this just another avenue for RIM to fall short in?

That may be a loaded question. There’s no telling with any company, or with any product, how well it will do or how hard it will fall before it launches, and before any of the truly official details have come forth from the company directly. But, with RIM’s presence in the market the way it is right now, should the company really be trying to launch something like a subscription-based music service?

If you haven’t heard, that’s exactly what Research In Motion is reportedly doing here soon. A new report from All Things D outlines a plan from RIM to launch what they will call BlackBerry Music (surprising, no?). It will be a new twist on subscription-based music plans, and the twist may or may not be a good one. The report says that instead of paying somewhere around $10 per month for an unlimited amount of music, BlackBerry Music subscribers will pay only $5 every month, but only have access to 50 songs in that amount of time.

But! As a bit of a token of good faith, RIM’s letting you share that music with other BlackBerry Music subscribers. A bit of bad news to round it all out, though: you won’t be able to transfer that music to any other device, other than a BlackBerry PlayBook. That means no putting the music you’re paying for on a PC or even another smartphone that you may own. Nope, just BlackBerry-branded devices. Sure, that’s probably not too surprising, but it is a bit limiting, especially for a subscription-based service.

First and foremost, you’re either a fan of subscription-based plans for downloading music or you’re not. Not many are walking down the middle of the road with this one. If you download a lot of music, and you download a lot of music all the time, then a subscription of a low-cost per month may not seem like a bad idea at all. But, if you’re not such a music aficionado, then paying every month for music that you may not even download isn’t the greatest plan around. For BlackBerry users, it looks like the BlackBerry Music plan may be targeted at both groups. At $5 per month that’s almost a negligible amount, and that’s probably what RIM is banking on. But, 50 songs may seem like just enough to some, and not enough to others.

I feel like RIM is ready to try something new, something that will potentially invigorate the company’s name within the ranks of the smartphone elite (and everyone else, for that matter), but they’re not ready to actually make a big leap in doing so, like they did with the PlayBook. This time around they’re going with a bit more of a cautious step, taking things slowly. And that may be the right path, but at the same time this may seem like just a big waste of time to some folks. After all, if you’re going to use other subscription-based services, then you already know that for a bit more money a month you can get an unlimited amount of music, and put it on whatever device you want. As long as that monthly fee is paid, you get music. Getting only 50 songs per month just doesn’t seem like it’s enough.

And here’s my big question: are you only allowed to have 50 songs encoded with whatever Digital Rights Management (DRM) they issue on your device at any given moment? And if that is the case, how on Earth are you supposed to have 50 tracks on your phone and get a free song from a friend who happens to share a song with you? Do you have to delete one of your songs to get the new song? Or can you have a set amount of “borrowed” songs along with that 50 you downloaded directly? Furthermore, do you get to keep that “shared” song for as long as you pay that $5 per month, or do you only get it for a certain amount of time?

There are obviously plenty of questions about the service, and that’s fitting considering that RIM hasn’t even come forward officially and announced the service. So hopefully all of these questions, and more are answered in due time, long before the company actually launches the service. In the meantime, let me know in the comments below what you think of BlackBerry Music. Are you going to use it? Or are you a fan of another subscription service?