Saturday, January 17, 2009

MIDEM 2009: Comes With Music, but that's easily dealt with

The pre-Midem MidemNet digital music conference is underway down in the South Of France, where somehow these companies who have to fight for every cent have managed to send their executives and sub-executives to find out stuff they could get for free on the internet.

Musically has been liveblogging an interview with Dr Tero Ojanpera, the EVP of "entertainment and communities" with Nokia. He has, obviously, been talking mostly about Comes With Music, giving an interesting little nugget about the "fair use" limit, and how it's not just us who is curious to see exactly where that limit might lie:

“We are seeing some people downloading hundreds of tracks a month initially, but when the base expands this will be even more like a bell curve. There were some bloggers who went and downloaded a lot, but once they noticed Nokia was not doing anything, they gave up! We are not really seeing anybody who is abusing the service. It’s validating all the research that was done before - this is how people will use it - some will use a lot, some will use a little, and it will average out.”

You'll notice he doesn't say that Nokia believed that the exploratory downloaders failed to breach a limit of fair use, just that Nokia chose to not do anything. Sadly, nobody seems to have bothered asking Ojanpera why the company won't just come out and say what it considers to be fair use of its service, and why it childishly keeps the figure secret.

Why doesn't it trust its customers with the actual rules for a service that they're paying for? It just seems to be cussed secrecy for the sake of it.

Also interesting is that some people are buying Comes With Music handsets, and not bothering with the music:
“What we are seeing three months in in the UK is that the consumption pattern is like a bell curve. There are certain users that don’t activate, and then a really nice bell curve where we are seeing good downloads in the middle and…”

[Moderator Bill] Werde [of Billboard] interjects - why are some people not activating? Ojanpera says some simply missed the offer. Bizarre.

I'll agree with Music Ally's "bizarre" response - given that the marketing is garishly insistent about Comes With Music, the suggestion that people might not realise that their Comes With Music phone comes with music seems a little odd. Surely the other possibility - that you can offer people unlimited music for no extra money, and they can't even be arsed to explore the offering - is far more fascinating. And worrying, for the music industry. And psychologically fascinating.

And are people buying in to the service in large numbers?
So, the UK then. The price point of the 5310 has lowered, and reports suggest sales aren’t good. Why? “I don’t want to put you on the spot” says Werde. Why not?!

Anyway, Ojanpera’s response, pointing out that Nokia has been expanding the device base for CWM in the UK. “Our target is not any more about ‘this is a few specific devices’, but going forward we will have this in all price points, and make this a mass-market phenomenon.”

Surely, if you can have Comes With Music in the cheapo end of the market, that must mean the money that's flowing to the labels, and then on to the artists, must be piffling beyond belief?

And what about the simplicity of the offering?
Is the offer simple enough, asks Werde? “One thing is of course, this comes back to the marketing, and that needs to be fine-tuned all the time. The actual product is so simple - one year of music, unlimited downloads in your phone and your PC. That’s simple enough, and a great offer.”

Of course, the offering isn't simple at all, when you look at it - and get down to fine details of owning the tracks forever, but requiring a DRM key, which you can only change once past the subscribing period. It's not that this is a totally unfair rule from Nokia's point of view - if you run DRM servers, you're not going to want to commit to long periods of fiddling for people who aren't paying you any more - but it complicates the offering more than it should. Interesting, then, that Nokia don't seem all that bothered about trying to crawl out from under the DRM tarpaulin.

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