Mobile music, the art of welding a Walkman to a handset, has so much promise – but in most countries outside the Far East it’s still just that. Two thirds of mobile users don’t want music, said a recent survey from Jupiter Research, so its research VP Mark Mulligan, our panel moderator, kicked off this session thusly: “Will Europeans ever behave like Japanese?”
Against that backdrop, Sony (NYSE: SNE) BMG’s EMEA digital VP Ian Henderson was predictably pessimistic: “If you look at the money we’re making from mobile music, it’s going down – mobile music was a lot bigger proportionally a year or two years ago. But, at the same time, we are really excited about what Nokia (NYSE: NOK) and SonyEricsson (NSDQ: ERIC) and Omnifone are doing. There’s a lot of hope but, right now, mobile music is in decline.
So what’s the problem? As ever, the relationship between digital folks and the labels. Vodafone (NYSE: VOD) UK head of music Tom McLennan: “It’s been a bit like the cha-cha. We’ve been bouncing around each other, finding out how we should work together, rather than being in the tango, where we’re up close and personal.”
But what will an effective mobile music business look like? Perhaps subscription music, as practiced by Vodafone through MusicStation and Orange through MusiqueMax in France, is the way forward? As McLennan said of his consumers: “They’re already subscribing to a service anyway – why not let them subscribe to their content?” But Mulligan responded: “Music subscriptions on the PC have essentially failed.”