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September 19, 2006

Mobile music update

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:28 PM

Sony Ericsson said today that it is launching a service that allows songs to be downloaded to its phones. The service would initially focus on new and up-and-coming artists.

A couple of weeks ago the rumors floated that Sony Ericsson was working on such a service. It's not a surprise, given that Sony Ericsson phones are so heavily designed for listening to a few tunes.

And it wasn't too long ago that Nokia announced it had purchased Seattle-based Loudeye to work on a music service of its own.

I'm not sure why everyone is in a hurry all the sudden. A lot of the companies attempting to provide full-track music downloads are finding themselves in a tough spot. In mobile, there are more mouths to feed than on the Internet. While iTunes and others provide music online for 99 cents a song, carriers haven't been able to get the price below $2.99.

Folks at Seattle-based Melodeo told me a couple of weeks ago that it was in the business of bringing full-track music to the phone, but decided to head in a different direction, providing mobile podcasting software instead. It announced a new partnership with Cingular Wireless at CTIA last week.

Jim Billmaier, Melodeo's CEO, said the opportunity with podcasting is larger than music for two reasons.

"If I had a choice of free or 99 cents online or $2 on mobile phone, I'd take the free approach," he said. "We think that the users have spoken pretty loudly."

The second issue, he said, is technical. The number of phones that can support music vs. podcasting is 7 percent vs. 100 percent.

With such a small market, he said, it's a difficult business model for carriers, labels and service providers, including Melodeo.

"We aren't thinking that's a great business," he said. "We are excited about podcasting."

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Tricia Duryee
Tricia Duryee
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