Mobile music — like mobile advertising — has seemingly been “the next frontier” for at least the past three years, but aside from the success of the iPhone (and the dwindling success of ringtones), panelists at our EconMusic conference said the barriers stopping consumers from getting music on their mobile phones are still steep:
— Tech hurdles: There are hundreds of phones, and getting the magic mix of battery life, memory, the right operating system and connection speed has proven difficult for app developers. Aside from the iPhone, the most promising handset for mobile music is the *Palm* Pre, according to Tom Conrad, Pandora’s CTO.
— Licensing and education issues: “Everyone who licenses music has trouble — but it’s especially difficult for mobile,” said Daniel Cohen, Dada Entertainment’s VP of business development. “The labels set high prices for mobile music a few years ago, when there was this thought that mobile phones were going to be the primary way that people got their music. Clearly it hasn’t, but they still want the carriers to charge $1.49 and $1.99 for tracks, and when people can buy them for $0.99 on an iPhone, it doesn’t work.” Walter Leaphart, managing partner at Creamwerks, said educating artists about why they needed to license their music for ringtones and other mobile content was difficult. “They don’t understand that they’re not necessarily going to get rich from ringtones — its more promotional revenue.”