The development of digital music was the major topic of debate at day two of Popkomm in Berlin, with delegates discussing the need for users to be able to synchronize their music collections between their computers, phones and even automobiles.

The future of “automobile music” was the subject of one discussion panel, including representatives from BMW. Ty Roberts, co-founder and CTO of Gracenote, said the Californian music database is partnering with car manufacturers on developing music platforms.

“The car platform has evolved from CD and cassette tape to being fully digital,” said Roberts. “The real challenge has been how to connect cars to the internet.”

Describing the car as a “fantastic place to listen to music”, Roberts said that mobiles would provide the on-the-go network link until built-in connectivity arrives.

He added: “It has to have safety involved – driver distraction is one of the primary challenges.”

Roberts said that in future a wi-fi link will synchronize with the driver’s home collection, adding that over-the-air downloads are less viable because cars can move out of signal range.

“Voice navigation, when it works, is the fastest way of getting to the content,” he said, adding that artists being “creative” with their song titles could be a problem. Other challenges include universal standards for metadata so the vehicles can correctly index content from providers or devices, as well as the need for car manufacturers to lock down specifications on new models three or four years in advance of production.

Christoph Grote, director communication, information and driver assistance, BMW AG added that he remains a strong supporter of digital/HD radio. “They [the driver] don’t have the burn of making the choice [of what to play],” he said. “That’s one of the great things about radio.”

The debate on mobile music also found agreement that synchronization of people’s music collections was vital for the development of all platforms, uniting mobile, car and computer.

“If you are looking into the future, ultimately you should be giving the user a music experience wherever they go,” said Rob Lewis, CEO of Omnifone, the London-based supplier of multi-platform digital music which has partnered with Sony Ericsson, LG and Vodafone.

“The music should be everywhere, it doesn’t matter how you get it,” added Paul Kenny, Vodafone music content and product executive in the U.K.

All-you-can-eat mobile download services were also the focus of attention following last week’s launch of Nokia’s Comes With Music package. Ian Henderson, VP digital business development EMEA, Sony BMG, admitted some in the biz had issues with any suggestion that unlimited services are “free” music.

“There is a lot of concern in the record industry among the artist community and management community about giving music away and making it seem like free,” he said. “Whenever you have a big paradigm shift, there is fear.”

Henderson said they were working to educate the artist and management community about the benefits. “It’s an experiment we have to try,” he said.

On the download music panel, the focus was on how paid-for digital music can reach a young audience and benefit from online marketing opportunities.

Orchard co-founder and VP international Scott Cohen revealed some of his company’s research, which found that page placements on iTunes drive sales more when they coincide with tour dates rather than street dates for album releases. He said that the lesson from Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead wasn’t a new business model, but “the connection they were able to make with their audience.”

He added: “When we gave away a free [promotional] track, that track sells more. During a free promotion, people are also buying it. It seems counter-intuitive. Anything that gets into a playlist chart drives sales.”

Popkomm is an international music and entertainment business trade fair, conference and live music festival. Organizers say they are expecting 843 exhibitors from 50 countries at the exhibition grounds, Messe Berlin. The music festival will feature 400 artists from 30 countries at venues across the city.