User experience, subscription services and good, old-fashioned A&R are the key factors that will help the music industry build a successful mobile music business.
That was the message from a panel of experts at Mobile Backstage, a GSMA/Nielsen production for the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, powered by Billboard and the Hollywood Reporter.
Speaking on the “Music Unlimited” panel, Rob Wells, international senior VP of digital music for Universal Music Group, said unlimited subscription-type deals like the Nokia Comes With Music phone and Omnifone’s MusicStation Max could transform the digital music market.
“We have an over-reliance on one partner and we’re looking for others to bring their game to the market,” said Wells. “It isn’t complicated to do a deal with Universal, but we do require a certain level of commitment from any partner.”
Wells ruled out doing exclusive deals with “any partner,” but added: “We’re trying to make the music business a more access-based business. But if we don’t have hits we can’t do innovative, groundbreaking deals like Nokia Comes With Music. We have to keep signing and breaking great bands.”
Wells also said Universal would experiment with “temporal pricing,” whereby consumers paid a premium price for access to an album before it was generally available.
“It’s not the Radiohead pay-what-you-want model,” he stressed, “but it’s something we’re very keen to develop through our direct-to-consumer channels like artist Web sites.”
Rob Lewis, CEO of Omnifone, said subscription services were a key weapon against piracy and predicted his company’s MusicStation over-the-air subscription download service with Vodafone U.K. would have more user numbers in the U.K. than Napster “within a week or two.”
“The reason youth engages with P2P [filesharing] is because they want to try stuff,” he said. “But if we can make the 2.8 billion mobile phones on the planet capable of having unlimited music access to music then the music industry will make much more money and the consumer will get what they want. 2008 is the year for that.”
Mobile Backstage continues throughout the day.