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Mobile Phones Sing!

I recently read a fascinating article by Anthony Bruno for Billboard Magazine called “The Next Move For Mobile Music.” It essentially takes a closer look at the world’s first mobile phone featuring iTunes via Motorola and Cingular. Apple and Motorola created a phone, nicknamed the ROKR, that can not only let users conduct conversations, act as a camera, send text messages, but it can now store up to 100 songs. Yes, your phone is your personal digital music player. When your phone rings the music stops and when your conversation is over, you pick-up where you left-off. As mentioned in a past blog entry, ring tones are a big business and wireless companies have discovered that out of the 180 million mobile phones in the United States, most people will pay for them. Now with the ability to download a full song on your cell phone, the music industry is hoping that consumers will pay for that spontaneity and convenience.

“Wireless consumers have been conditioned to pay for the content, as reflected in the $2 or more they pay for master ringtones,” says Bruno. That is what the music industry is banking on the fact that people are already used to paying for snippets of songs [in the form of ringtones] and now will pay even a little more for a full song. He says, “The experts are saying that the wireless music experience is not meant to be compared with the online music experience. We must treat wireless differently as an early-release platform on which fans can get early access to new hit music they can’t get anywhere else.” The music industry wants to test songs on wireless networks before the music hits the stores via traditional media; the iTunes phones become a music testing ground.

They are also encouraging “side-loading” which is transfering music from your personal MP3 library to your phone. This process has been discouraged in the past however they want to do whatever it takes. As a matter of fact, music professionals are suggesting “dual delivery service” where you get your new digital music purchase delivered to your phone and your computer at the same time. Another idea is to setup an extra fee for a subscription music service in which a wireless music lover would be able to download a certain number of songs and if they go over their limit they are charged an extra. It’s just like what most wireless companies do when you go over your paid minutes. The fact is clear that the music industry needs wireless music to be a success.

The big hurdles that continue to stand in the way of jump starting the use of these music phones are the high cost of entry, an unfamiliar interface and understanding how the service works. These are all valid points that always hinder a most new technologies. The key the industries are trying to get out to the public now is simply letting people know about it and convincing them to try it out. “Wireless carriers and music labels are attempting to invent a new market, without a road map. Ringtones where the first step, but full-song downloads mean that big leaps must be made to forge ahead”, says Bruno.

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