BlackBerry maker Research in Motion is in talks with record labels about a BlackBerry music service, according to multiple reports.
The news was first reported Thursday by CNET, which claims the planned music service will run on top of the popular BlackBerry Messenger instant messaging service.
The status of the talks varies by report. CNET's article says at least one major label has signed on. Reuters' article says BlackBerry is in "late stage negotiations" with all four majors.
Details on the exact shape of the service come from the Wall Street Journal: "Subscribers would get access to around 50 songs at a time, which they could listen to on their phones and share with other subscribers via BlackBerry Messenger." It's clear BlackBerry is not taking on established players like iTunes, Rhapsody or Spotify - a smart move. And this description leaves open the possibility that BlackBerry could use the music service as a branding and promotional vehicle, which ties into how it has best used music in the past.
Although the BlackBerry is an afterthought as a music device, the brand has long made music a part of its image. It has sponsored tours by John Mayer in 2007 and 2008, U2 and Madonna in 2009, Black Eyed Peas in 2010 and the promotional Foo Fighters Garage Tour earlier this year. In addition, BlackBerry had Drake perform at a 2010 launch event for the BlackBerry Torch device.
A 50-at-a-time music service would buck the two trends in digital music: unlimited streaming services and cloud-based locker services. BlackBerry has already dipped its toes into downloads by putting a 7digital-powered MP3 store in the operating system for its Playbook tablet. The CNX operating system that powers the Playbook tablet is reported to be launching on the first BlackBerry device in Q1 2012. A locker service that allows streaming from any BlackBerry device would fit well with an MP3 store, although that would not allow the kind of sharing enabled by running the service on top of BlackBerry messenger.