Edgar Bronfman Jr. today used his keynote platform at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona to lambast wireless carriers and handset manufacturers.
Warner Music Group's chairman/CEO accused operators and device makers of holding back growth in mobile entertainment by failing to meet consumers' true needs.
He quoted statistics to support mobile music's immense potential. It took 12 years to connect the world's first 1 billion mobile users, and less than three to connect the second billion. In 2006, consumers spent $9 billion on full-track downloads and ringtones, he said, and by 2010, they are forecast to spend $32 billion.
Yet, he declared, only 8.5% of music-enabled phone owners use their device to buy music because "it's expensive, it's complicated and it's slow. As partners in this industry, we need to do everything to change that."
He emphasized that, as a record label, WMG was sympathetic to the constant challenges facing operators. And he illustrated the company's eagerness to deliver content via carriers by announcing three major new deals: with Norway-based carrier Telenor and its 105 million customers in Europe and Asia; with Egypt-headquartered Orascom Telecom, which is in 16 North Africa, Middle East and European markets; and with O-Media Holdings, a media and mobile conglomerate serving the Middle East and North Africa.
"These new partnerships generate more fun, freedom and flexibility for customers," he said of the industry as a whole. "But we need to make our services affordable, easy and quick. We're not only falling short of our potential, we're losing billions."
Handset makers also need to produce more consumer-friendly devices, Bronfman warned. "The average ringtone takes two-and-a-half minutes and 20 clicks to download; if you could make that two to three clicks in 10 seconds, the amount of revenue generated will be amazing. And that's just ringtones."
He pointed to Apple Inc.'s iPhones, the new mobile/music player hybrid, as demonstrating where consumers want to go with mobile handsets.
"It has raised the bar of what consumers expect, and what mobile phones should be able to do as music players."
Mika Salmi, MTV Network's recently-appointed president of global digital media and the 3GSM confab's second keynote guest, also urged the mobile industry to boost consumer usage with easy-to-use applications.
"We're big fans of subscription services, embedded experience on mobile phones, and simplicity because that encourages users to want more content," he told the 3GSM audience.
Speaking to Billboard.biz, he said, he is constantly exchanging ideas with operators. "Because we're a global operation, we can point to concrete experiences of what works in other markets. In Japan, for example, we are to prove there is a considerable demand for premium services. Local markets have their own quirks and needs, and we're trying to bring it all together."
In a separate panel, called "Breaking Down Traditional Barriers To Build New Business," EMI Music's head of digital Barney Wragg yesterday expressed similar sentiments about consumer usage.
"Social networking on mobile is going to be so difficult to use; that could alienate consumers," he cited as an example. "We've got to make these services work in a way that attracts and maintain the attention of the consumer."