M:Metrics revealed some staggering data this week about the iPhone. It found that while 6.7% of overall mobile users listened to music in some form or another on their phone, and 27.9% of smartphone users did the same, iPhone users blew them both away at 74.1%.
Same goes for activities outside of music. The M:Metrics report found that iPhone users overindexed on all types of mobile content-web search, YouTube, social networking and games.
That to me speaks volumes about how a good device will inspire usage. I'm no Apple fanboy, as most know. I actually prefer subscription services, and as such don't own an iPod or an iPhone. That said, I also don't use my phone to listen to music and I'm as big a mobile geek as you'll find.
When the iPhone first came out, I resisted the hype because I knew several other phones that already had the same features that the iPhone claimed to be the first to offer (like browsing the Web). And that's still true. But the iPhone did those things better, and for that, I'll tip my hat.
To be fair, iPhone owners are pretty rabid Apple fans, and may not represent the broad base of mobile users out there. But it still gives me hope that there is life left in the mobile music market.
There is an opportunity here if only the multiple players in the space -- and by that I mean carriers, handset manufacturers AND content owners -- stop falling over themselves trying to control the experience and just work together to give the consumer what they want.
Talk, talk, talk. This is an industry that just loves to talk.
Most recently, we've heard that the record labels and Apple are in "serious talks" over a new business model for digital music. Those talks haven't even reached completion and already we're seeing holes poked in the idea by other people who like to talk.
Earlier in the week we heard different talk about Facebook talking to record labels for a possible music download service, which comes on the heels of more talk on the same from MySpace.
Oh, and let's not forget EMI is talking about joining the Comes With Music initiative that UMG and Nokia started late last year.
Let me shine a bit of behind-the-curtain light on how talk is used these days:
1) The press is often used as a negotiating tool to put public pressure on a difficult partner. That doesn't work very well. Remember when EMI struck the DRM-free deal with Apple? The label originally was negotiating with Apple's competitors, like Yahoo and Rhapsody. Somebody in that group didn't like that EMI was demanding an upfront lump payment in return for unprotected files, and leaked the "talks" to the press. EMI's response: ditch 'em and continue instead with a partner who could be trusted to keep its mouth shut-Apple. (Of course Apple's "Thoughts on Music" was a non-leak leak of the process, setting itself up for the credit of what ultimately was EMI's idea.)
2) There are a lot of big egos in the music industry. If several labels are in negotiation for something new and innovative with a digital service, each one wants credit for the idea. So they'll leak the story to the press in hopes of being cast in a leadership, forward-thinking light and maybe get a few cents tacked onto their stock price.
3) Some companies like to curry favor with the press. By providing "leak" about some "talks" that may or may not be going anywhere, a source may be going through the motions of scratching a reporter's back without providing any real information in hopes of having the favor returned with a nice spread about something the company is willing to talk about on the record (usually very flattering to said company and of questionable news value). This works because publications like being referenced by other publications basically rewriting their scoop.
All are perfectly legitimate activities, without which I'd have far less to write about than I do. As a journalist, it's my job to report about all these talks, and make sense of them where I can. But as a music industry observer, especially of the digital bent, I also think it's time we have a little less "talk" and a little more "do."
In today's world of instant blog posts and hyperlinking hysteria, "talk" is misconstrued as news. Let me dismiss that notion. Doing something is news. Finalizing a deal is news. Talking about doing something is just that — talk.