The mobile industry, not the record business, will create the next wave of music superstars, according to Black Eyed Peas founder Will.i.am.

Speaking at Mobile Backstage, a GSMA/Nielsen production for the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, powered by Billboard and the Hollywood Reporter, the artist said the record industry was now "like a grandmother -- and the artists of tomorrow need to do deals with her granddaughters. It's the mobile industry that will produce the Michael Jacksons and Madonnas of tomorrow."

During a lively discussion hosted by Billboard's group editorial director Tamara Conniff and also featuring Ken Hertz, a partner in entertainment law firm Goldring, Hertz & Lichtenstein, Will.i.am called on all artists to embrace the creative and marketing possibilities offered by the mobile industry.

"Just like you can't adopt contracts for the CD age for mobile, artists need to stop being lazy and saying 'Here's my 11 songs, do what you will with them'," he said. "Tomorrow isn't yesterday."

Nonetheless, he criticized the lack of cooperation between carriers that tied artists releasing music through mobile companies down to exclusive deals.

"The Timbaland Verizon deal is great, but what about the people that don't have Verizon?" he said. "Musicians are just as important as football, soccer or basketball players but we have no ball. We need our own ball."

Nonetheless Hertz predicted such deals would become more and more commonplace as artist contracts with record labels expire.

"The sheer economics of the mobile industry make it extremely attractive to artists as a platform," he said. "One can easily imagine a Nokia or a Sony Ericsson coming to an artist and saying 'Give us 16 songs available exclusively to our handsets, and we'll give you a bounty on every phone sold.' As a multiple it's potentially more than any artist could make from a record company."

Mobile Backstage continues throughout today with other participants including Robert Redford and Isabella Rossellini.