Cellphone users to soon expect free music as part of service

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Cellphone users to soon expect free music as part of service

Cannes (France) – An AFP article has appeared entitled “New music services wow cellphone users.” The article suggests that Apple’s iPhone integrated with iTunes, and subsequent follow-on products such as Nokia’s “Comes With Music” (CWM) service, have set the standard for integrated mobile music. And since CWM offers unlimited free use and downloads, the “expectation bar” is set pretty high.

Revelations about the future of this mobile music industry/service are forthcoming at this year’s MIDEM – the music industry’s biggest annual event. Major players are currently on hand to demonstrate their offerings – including Nokia, Blackberry and Sony Ericsson. All indications suggest cell phone contracts will soon be available in all markets allowing unlimited access to music repositories for download and listening on cell phones, with cellphone purchases possible for playing on other devices.

Nokia’s existing CWM service is a “free service” (included in the price of the phone or contract) with over 4 million tracks and unlimited use and downloads on the phone. According to Nokia’s senior executive, Tero Ojanpera, “2009 will be a very, very big investment for us in music.” CWM plans to launch their service in Singapore and Australia before the end of March, 2009.

Sony Ericsson’s PlayNow music service has features which they claim “can help fight illegal downloads.” A related PlayNow Plus service was recently launched in Sweden as a pilot program where, for a fee, unlimited downloads to their phones were also possible.

Blackberry also announced at MIDEM it will be adding “a host of new applications, including music and links to social online communities attractive to younger users.”

In Japan, 90% of all digital music sold is downloaded to phones. In the U.S., the Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF) estimates that in 2008 there were $25 billion in digital music sales, only half of which were sold via phones. The industry sees this market as one with huge growth potential.

Nokia’s CWM service is offered in Great Britain, for example, via a $58/month (40 pound) service providing free unlimited music downloads. As an alternative, consumers can buy a Nokia phone with a built-in 12-month or 18-month music subscription already included in the price.

Nokia is using England as a “test bed” market to learn how consumers respond to these types of fee-based “unlimited services.”

In related news, Russia is proving to be a major emerging market for cell phones, as well as an Internet subscriber base (now with over 40 million on the net). Russia’s presence was definitely felt at this year’s MIDEM conference. Piracy is still the major drawback in Russia, however, with a 40% rate outside of major cities, and 80% inside. Recent changes in legislation allow new regulations which are helping to curb piracy. As a result, major players are looking to Russia as a relatively untapped money fountain. Russia is currently the 4th largest cellphone market behind China, the U.S. and India with 180 million subscribers. 

See the AFP article on Yahoo Tech.