Europe's independent labels could lose out on the burgeoning mobile-music business unless international wireless carriers devote more attention to their repertoire, industry executives heard last nigh

Europe's independent labels could lose out on the burgeoning mobile-music business unless international wireless carriers devote more attention to their repertoire, industry executives heard last night (Nov. 30) at a mobile music conference in London.

By failing to include a comprehensive number of European independent labels, the music services offered by the region's carriers are not fully meeting its customers' needs, keynote panelist Michel Lambot said. Lambot is president of the European labels organization Impala and co-chairman of Brussels-based indie label group Play It Again Sam.

Moreover, he suggested operators focused more on English-language international repertoire than on the mostly indie-signed indigenous local artists. "One reason why the Internet bubble burst internationally was because the industry couldn't understand the local languages," Lambot said. "I hope that with the next generation of mobile music, they will create more (dedicated) French-language services for France. Admittedly, there has been some progress because the iTunes (digital service) in France is in the French language."

The event, called “Supporting Independent Mobile Music,” was organized by the U.K.'s independent labels' trade body AIM and MuliMob, the European Commission-funded group that promotes multicultural diversity.

Simon Wheeler, AIM's new-media committee chairman and Beggars Group's director of digital, admitted that "the majors are far better equipped to deal with the mobile world."

He continued: "With the limited number of channels offered by operators, it is hard for smaller companies to get into the door."

U.K.-based Wheeler then criticized operators for the small size of their music teams, forcing indies to rely on aggregators. "It means we're not in control of our own rights," Wheeler added.

Ed Kershaw, Vodafone Group's London-based head of music, admitted its subscribers often request a diversity of repertoire. "But we've not the time and the resources to sign 900 agreements with independent labels at the local level in our 26 markets. So, to a degree, we need to rely on aggregators."

The solution, argued David Williams, Nokia's music and audio industry director, lies with the independents. "I think the independents need to come up with creative ways to bring discovery to consumers, especially with these types of small screens," he said.

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