In its quest to stay in the streaming music race, Rhapsody is going virtual. The service said Thursday that it has debuted a virtual reality app, Rhapsody VR, which allows users to watch exclusive live concerts shot right on the stages with performers. The app is available on iOS and Google Play.
So far, the app has only a small collection of videos, many sourced from 360-degree footage the company gathered during its SXSW showcase in Austin, Texas, in March. They include Talib Kweli performing his hit “Get By,” the hip-hop trio Flatbush Zombies performing “Bath Salt” and “Bounce,” as well as number of videos of artists including Eli “Paperboy” Reed, Shannon and the Clams, and the Blind Shake. Rhapsody said exclusive new batches of videos will be added every month.
While this sounds like the kind of thing that would really set a Rhapsody subscription apart from its competitors, especially given its competitors’ recent charge into video, it looks like the company is using Rhapsody VR to drive installations of its app instead. You don’t actually need a Rhapsody account to use Rhapsody VR, but when users open it, they are given ample opportunities to listen to the videos’ subjects’ music on — you guessed it — Rhapsody.
Rhapsody finished 2015 on a high note, nearly doubling its subscriber base to almost 3.5 million. That number puts it about level with Tidal, but leaves it far behind Spotify’s 30 million paying subscribers and Apple’s 13 million.
And because it can’t compete with a company that just raised a billion dollars in debt or one that made $50 billion last quarter, it’s chosen to raise its profile by expanding the way subscribers can use its service. It launched a kids-focused version, Rhapsody Kids, last fall, and recently added a social layer to the service that serves up playlists with music sourced from subscribers with music tastes similar to yours.