Changes in Mobile Music Downloads

music.jpgOn a computer, you can choose wherever you want to download music from. Napster, the Zune Marketplace, iTunes, Amazon–it’s completely up to you. But why isn’t the same thing true on our cell phones? Think about it. On the iPhone, you have to access the iTunes music store. On a Verizon Wireless handset, it’s VCast music. AT&T, at least, gives you a choice between Napster and eMusic. But what about your other options? Why can’t we download from wherever we want to? We spoke with Groove Mobile’s chief marketing officer Adam Sexton to get the scoop on mobile music, what’s going on, and what’s to come. Thankfully, it’s beginning to change, albeit slowly. Here’s why. Carrier Provided, Not Necessarily Carrier-Owned According to Sexton, the music provided by wireless carriers is often provided by third-party media outlets. Sprint’s store, for example, is powered by his company, Groove Mobile, which helps provide tracks from major carriers like Universal Music, Warner Music, and Sony BMG Music cost about $.99 each. What’s interesting though, is that Sprint doesn’t offer a subscription based payment plan for its service, but Groove does, and Sprint decided not to go with it. Why limit consumer choice? In fact, Groove even offers music rentals. But what if your carrier doesn’t support an over-the-air music service? Where can you go to get your music, or what if you want to buy a music subscription instead of per-track? Handset Access Handset manufacturers are also beginning build-in mobile music stores—just like Apple did with the iPhone. On January 28th, Sony Ericsson announced that it would now offer 5 million songs on its PlayNow service, and to access it, you just need a Sony Ericsson phone. The service will first be available in Scandinavia, and we’re unsure of when it’ll come to the states, but nonetheless, it’s a trend that’s just beginning to bud. Last year, Nokia announced its Ovi store which is expected to launch sometime this year. Problem Solved? Almost. According to Sexton, The Orchard and eMusic stores, for example, are beginning to offer DRM-Free music that can be downloaded through an SMS message. That way, you don’t need any specific service installed on your phone; you just need to know what song you want to download. It totally kills the music-browsing experience, but it’s great for on-the-fly downloads from any handset. Unfortunately, though, the services mostly cater to indie music, and don’t offer all mainstream artists. Still, it’s a step in the right direction.

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