There was some interesting discussion about mobile music at the College Music Journal conference in New York, as blogged by Eliot Van Buskirk at Wired. The general tone is that the mobile music industry will take off if the carriers and labels get realistic and get out of the way — guess which industries weren’t on the panel? Still, there were some interesting comments from the participants, which are paraphrased by Van Buskirk:
John Fogerty, V.P. of Mobile, Napster: “The carriers’ approach to music has evolved over past 2-3 years. Carriers’ eyes got really big in terms of owning the whole [cellphone music] thing — doing the programming themselves, hiring experts, and running their own music store. In past 2 years, they’ve realized how difficult that is. At Napster (NSDQ: NAPS) we have 150 people whose sole focus is to create the music experience. At carriers, the average is about 12 people.” Because of this carriers will become more dependent on label and service partners for their music offering, which will make it easier for bands to deal with them (or more accurately, deal with the people who deal with them).
Nihal Mehta, nightt: “Are there any carriers here? No? We hate the carriers. We don’t deal with them if we don’t have to. The trend is, everything’s going off-deck. 60 percent of mobile internet traffic is off-deck in Europe…in Japan, the vast majority of mobile traffic is off-deck. It makes most sense to circumvent carriers — unless you can get in the top ten spots on the deck.” I think that’s the big take-away from this: The top-selling content will probably always be from the top of the carrier deck. But if you’re not at the top of the deck there’s not a lot of advantage, and it probably isn’t worth the reported hassle of dealing with the carriers.
Fogerty also noted that both carriers and labels want compensation for what they offer, but it means there’s not much room to maneuver in the middle. However, with the launch of 3G networks in the US carriers are looking to convince people to upgrade their network speeds. As a result “they’re coming off of their, let’s say, historic enthusiasm for negotiating revenue share”.