The BBM Music Service is live in the Beta Zone (maybe not for everyone) and we’ve prepared a Beta Review for those considering trying the app. When the app goes live, it will probably come with a month free trial, so you can try it out for yourself. From there, you can decide if you’re going to spend the $5 per month. Continue reading after the jump for a review of the BBM Music Service.
The BBM Music Service is a media app built on top of BBM using the BBM Social APIs. The app features a pretty stellar music catalog that current has around 10 million songs from the big four music labels: Universal, Time Warner, EMI and Sony. Before you write-off those labels as being too mainstream, recognize that many of the indie labels you love are actually owned by the big four but operate under a different name so you still think they’re cool. I’ll go into the catalog more later in the review.
The cornerstone of the BBM Music Service is the social experience around music that’s augmented by BBM. Adding friends to the BBM Music Service is incredible easy. When you initiate the friend adding process, you get a list of friends who have BBM 6 and the Music Service installed, making it easy to grab friends right out of your contacts. The downside to all of this is that you’re very limited by your own contacts and the technical requirements. When RIM says they can leverage the 40+ million BBM users, what they don’t say is that a very small portion of those users have the latest BBM 6 and an even smaller portion will end up buying into the BBM Music Service.
It’s awesome to see your song list jump when you add friends, but it should be noted that when one of those users backs out of the service or doesn’t continue after the free trial, you lose those songs.
After using the app for a couple hours, I was able to amass 7 friends (4 pending – WTF guys!?) and 126 songs. That’s not too bad considering the app is in extremely limited beta. The only downside to adding people is your library can get filled very quickly with a lot of junk you don’t like. There is an “ignore song” feature but adding friends does quickly mess up your music vibe. Also, it looks like adding friends’ music to your library also messes with the recommendation engine. This is something that should be fixed in the beta. Don’t recommend me songs based on what other people like, recommend based on what I like.
The fact that the BBM Music Service is a cloud app makes it really handy for changing devices. Migrating from a BlackBerry OS 6 device to a BlackBerry 7 device kept all my songs and everything was in place. When you migrate, it says “would you like to swap the device” and you only have 5 of these. This probably has to do with protecting the music from sharing accounts, but it’s important to know that you only can do this 5 times.
There seems to be a lot of negative reaction from the media to the 50 song limit. The limit isn’t actually bad at all considering you can delete songs and continually curate your lists. Also, there’s nothing stopping you from collaborating with your BBM Music Service friends so there’s no duplication and you all get access to more songs in total.
In terms of music discovery, the BBM Music Service was actually really good. I consider myself outside the mainstream when it comes to music tastes and I was able to find somewhat obscure artists on the service such as Paramore, Kreayshawn, Boys Noize and Ninjasonik. There were even a lot of remixes in the catalog. Now, it’s not perfect and there were a few relatively mainstream artists such as Justice and Two Door Cinema Club that returned nothing, but as far as discovery goes the BBM Music Service was really impressive. I guess we don’t give The Big Four enough credit.
The fact that you have to go into the options and select “Show Explicit Content” and set a password was so lame it’s hard to imagine that somebody actually insisted that feature exists. Did a team of moms make this app or is this RIM legal’s doing?
The BBM Social APIs
It’s good to see RIM using their own BBM Social Platform and it doesn’t seem like they’re using any hidden APIs or functionality. This is really important because it’s inspiring to other developers. If you use hidden APIs that developers don’t have access to, you send the message that only RIM can make a successful app. When RIM “eats its own dog food”, it tells developers that they can do it too.
The problem with RIM using its own BBM Social APIs is that the platform isn’t great when it comes to user experience. There’s a lot of waiting as the app verifies, grabs permissions and generally just hangs while it talks to a server. We have talked about this before but RIM really needs to be less paranoid when it comes to the BBM Social Platform. The BBM Music Service is a great example of how this paranoia with the BBM Social APIs creates a negative user experience.
Where The App Should Go
Integration with Vevo and YouTube – The app has some integration with Amazon which is cool because it lets you buy the music to transfer it to your desktop. What’s needed is more integration such as the ability to watch the music video or grab the lyrics to the song.
Featured DJs – The Staff Picks are pretty lame and considering all the work BlackBerry and Diplo have been doing, it would be great to see someone like him take over the Staff Picks section.
Rewards - It would be cool if I could be rewarded for curating a popular list of songs or inviting lots of users to the service. Many storage services for example will offer you larger online storage accounts for inviting friends to the service. If my invitations result in someone paying $5 per month, I should be able to have another 5 songs at my disposal.
Self promotion – There should be some way of linking to your BBM Music Service profile. Many BBM users like to leave their PINs for others to add them on BBM (take a look at our Facebook page), so why can’t we have something similar for the BBM Music Service. Being able to promote your account with a QR code or link would increase the number of songs you have access to and would make it a more social experience.
The BBM Music Service app is a lot of fun but I can’t help but think it could have been bigger. We live in an age where software sells hardware and the best thing RIM can do is to create more platform services that developers can use to make apps and build businesses. Rather than spend all this time creating an app with their own APIs, perhaps RIM should have figured out a way to build music into the current BBM Social APIs where all developers could have used music to augment their applications. If RIM had negotiated a music deal with the Big Four and offered developers a way to hook into the music service, it could have resulted in far more music apps being developed than just the BBM Music Service. The service is a great start but I’m reminded of what Zappos Co-Founder Tony Hsieh once said: “Whatever you’re thinking, think bigger”.