We know — the family that plays together stays together. What about the family that plays music together?
New subscription plans from the Rdio unlimited music service aim to find out. The company, launched by Skype, Kazaa, and Joost co-founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom last summer, announced family plans Monday offering discounts when mom and dad sign up along with their kids. The discounts only affect the full-fledged $10/month version of the service, which lets you play any of over 10 million songs on your smartphone, as opposed to the web-only $5-per-month plan. Incremental savings disappear after the third family member.
Still, this is a smart strategy, considering data showing January to be always iTunes’ biggest month for music sales. Some of that stems from people buying music for their new iPods and iPhones, but some also comes from parents giving kids pre-paid iTunes coupons to start them down the honorable path of paying for digital music.
Other companies can now sell music to Apple’s devices, thanks to the invention of the app, so Rdio’s family plans make sense. Parents already buy digital music for their kids, so it stands to reason that they might pay for it in subscription form — especially because, unlike downloads, subscriptions obviate the need to download music from free (and potentially-infringing) sources like bit torrent.
Of course, a family could try to save even more money by adding all of its devices to the same account. But only one can listen at a time on Rdio, and everyone would have the same playlists, song ratings, activity feeds, comments, and so on. Clearly, in a family of serious music fans — or one that wants to be — that would never fly. Under Rdio’s new group plans, everyone gets their own unique identity and profile.
Rdio’s main difference from other subscriptions also comes into play here. It differs by presenting an activity feed on the main page that shows what your friends have been listening to and commenting on — sort of like Twitter for music. This architecture makes Rdio’s family plans potentially more inviting, because families and other pre-existing groups might already have an incentive to share what they’re listening to and talking about.
On the other hand, kids might not allow their parents to follow them on the service, and vice-versa, so maybe other types of groups make more sense for this. Maybe the next step will be digital music group-ons, where groups of friends get a reduced rate for signing up together. After all, they already have a reason to want to share their musical activity with each other, so it behooves them to use the same service.
For now, Rdio’s new offerings are for families only, and offer discounts for up to three accounts (couples can also save). As you’ll notice from the pricing below, the discounts aren’t too steep, which makes sense, because Rdio has to pay labels and publishers for all of this unlimited music regardless of what you pay. The best deal is for a family of three:
One person, web listening only: $5 per month
Rdio Unlimited Family (all devices for all family members):
• 2 accounts $18 per month (10 percent cheaper)
• 3 accounts $23 per month (23 percent cheaper)
• Additional accounts: $10 per month each
(Screenshot courtesy of Rdio)