BlackBerry's new music service is official, with features, pricing, and music industry deals confirmed.

On Thursday, RIM announced the start of a closed beta of BBM Music, which allows users of the company's popular BlackBerry Messenger service to listen to and share songs with fellow BBMers -- as long as they've updated to BBM 6 (earlier versions do not support the music service).

A total of 50 songs from a huge catalog of licensed music (about 10 million songs so far) can be added to a BBM Music profile, according to the company's web site splash page. The price is $5 per month, and for now this is the only tier available -- although BBM Music could conceivably introduce more capacious plans given enough interest (and device capabilities, of course).

If a total of 50 seems somewhat limited compared to some other device and app capabilities, users can swap out up to 25 songs per month -- so any given month provides an individual user with full (although not simultaneous) access to 75 songs. And that's before one starts adding BBM Music friends.

Yes, the social playlist function allows users to also listen to other BBM Music users' songs. Given enough friends (and assuming all of them don't have similar song lists), this could dramatically increase the amount of music available to a user at any one time. BTW: initial beta tester reports also state that friends' music is included in the recommendations, which may not give ideal results.

The service is expressly focused on the social aspect, with sharing of songs and playlists repeated throughout the company's statements. Any tracks that users want to keep can be stored on removable media or purchased via an embedded link to Amazon's MP3 Store.

The major music labels (EMI, Sony Music, Universal Music Group, and Warner) are fully involved, and reiterate RIM's stated social focus, emphasizing discovering new music rather than building up a huge collection of all-time favorites.

A major component of online music continues to be about community, and the ability to discover new artists and music through word of mouth, stated Rob Wells, Universal Music's President of Global Digital Business. BBM Music dynamically and elegantly integrates the excitement of this social music discovery process with a high quality music service, enabling tens of millions of BlackBerry users to experience new music and to share those experiences with their friends virtually anywhere and at anytime.


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