Universal Music International chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge and will.i.am from Black Eyed Peas were among those lending their support to Nokia's new all-you-can-eat music package Comes With Music at the launch in London.
The service, rolling out in the U.K. on Oct. 16, was unveiled at the Koko venue ahead of a Comes With Music concert by melodic rock trio Keane. Nokia also showed off its new touch phone, the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, which will support Comes With Music.
During the opening presentation, Tero Ojanpera, executive VP and head of the Nokia Entertainment and Communities business, singled out Grainge in the audience for his early support for Comes With Music. "Without you it would not have happened," he said.
With EMI recently signing up to the service, the Finnish mobile operator has all the majors on board as well as independent music labels and affiliates, including the Orchard, Beggars Group, Ministry of Sound and PIAS. It also has agreements with Sony/ATV Music Publishing, EMI Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing and U.K. collecting society the MCPS-PRS Alliance. Users will have access to a catalog of more than two million tracks.
As well as predicting the imminent demise of CDs during the presentation, will.i.am thanked Nokia for "wrapping up their efforts in saving the music industry."
He told Billboard.biz that he embraces the all-you-can-eat package, even though users won't specifically be buying Black Eyed Peas' music. "That's awesome," he said. "You have an option, a smorgasbord of songs and compilations. That's dope."
Ojanpera said the all-you-can-eat service will reach other territories, starting next year with Singapore and Australia. There are currently a-la-carte Nokia Music Stores in 10 European countries and Singapore. In terms of a U.S. presence, Ojanpera added, "We are planning, in 2009, to be in that market."
He was also bullish about living up to the promise of "unlimited access" to the millions of tracks, adding that as soon as you sign up online after purchasing the handset and music package "the [a-la-carte] prices disappear and the candy store opens."
New York-based Elizabeth Schimel, Nokia global head of music services and software, was just as confident. "There are no tricky limitations on how many [tracks] you can keep," she told Billboard.biz. "What you download, you can keep."
"The basic offer is to allow consumers reasonable personal use and to download as many tracks as they want. We will, I believe, live up to that promise," she added.
As reported earlier, the package will be sold exclusively at the U.K.'s 805 Carphone Warehouse stores and its Web site for £129.95 ($231.36), which includes a Nokia 5310 XpressMusic handset.
Nokia declined to break down the cost of the phone and the music.
"We have done modeling of a lot of different scenarios," Schimel said. "We've designed an offer and a structure that we believe will drive profitability for us, for the labels, for everybody in the music ecosystem -- labels, publishers and artists. We believe we can bring new and greater revenue into the digital space."
The fee covers one year of unlimited access and customers can keep the tracks when that year is up. They can then sign up for another year for access to new releases or catalog they didn't get around to downloading. The subscription will be assigned to one PC and handset, although there will be options to transfer music if a new PC is purchased in that time.
Unsurprisingly, Comes With Music downloads will have Windows Media DRM and any users wishing to burn tracks to CD will have to pay the a-la-carte download price for each track.
At present, the package is limited to a pay-as-you-go tariff. But while mobile networks may be reluctant to support a rival to their a-la-carte download stores or subscriptions, Schimel insists they are working together and 18-month contracts will be available around the Oct. 16 launch date. "Comes With Music is a very unique offering, differentiated from all of the mobile music stores," she said.