@ CTIA: Billboard: Instant Gratification Of Mobile Music Deserves Premium Price, Universal Says

How do you justify the high price of over-the-air mobile music downloads? The instant gratification they deliver to consumers, Universal Music’s Amanda Marks told moderator Antony Bruno of Billboard during the Music Industry Q&A at Billboard Mobile Entertainment Live. The high prices don’t seem to be holding operators’ sales back, she said, and they’re seeing “pretty torrid growth.” Pressed for a number, Marks said that Universal has seen over 200 percent growth in OTA downloads over the last year — which, when considering the small size of the market, doesn’t seem particularly impressive. She also added that Universal would support lower prices from operators and their music services — another interesting remark considering the label’s long-running spat with Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) over the price of iTunes Music Store downloads.

On the long tail and mobile music: Marks and fellow panelist Richard Bengloff, president of the American Association of Independent Music, agreed it could, but not as things currently stand with mobile handsets and online services. Handsets themselves aren’t great for browsing and content discovery, while music search services remain wanting. Marks said that Universal sees a lot of success from catalog applications that are embedded on handsets, citing a mastertones app on some Verizon (NYSE: VZ) handsets, but that technical hurdles remain to getting its embedded applications more widely distributed.

On flattening ringtone sales: “The future of my business is not tied to any one product,” Marks said, adding that OTA downloads will rival ringtones as labels’ top-selling mobile product.

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