AT&T and Napster are banking on the spontaneous behavior of kids when it comes to today’s announcement that the entire Napster music catalog will be available for download to AT&T’s mobile phone customers.
AT&T already has a “sideloading” agreement with Napster that lets subscribers transfer their music from a personal computer to their cell phones via a cable or memory card. With the new agreement, AT&T customers can buy music directly from Napster on their cell phones, spending $7.49 for a bundle of five songs or $1.99 a la carte. The service begins in mid November.
Contrast the AT&T/Napster pricing with other over-the-air music download services. Apple sells songs for 99 cents each through iTunes to the iPhone and the iPod Touch. Ironically, AT&T is the sole carrier for the iPhone, but the iPhone is tied to iTunes and won’t be able to download music from Napster.
Sprint Nextel, the No. 3 U.S. mobile carrier, also sells songs for 99 cents each for over-the-air downloading.
AT&T’s director of premium content, Rob Hyatt, acknowledged that the price is more expensive than rivals. But while the price may put off some consumers, Hyatt said it would attract young music fans who want to make spontaneous purchases.
“They’re very price insensitive,” Hyatt said in an interview with Reuters.
About 10 million U.S. consumers are expected to download about 70 million songs to their phones in 2007, according to IDC, a technology research firm. IDC also expects 44 million US. consumers to buy songs directly to their phones by 2011. IDC, however, did not break down the “U.S. consumer” into age groups.
How many kids will download music to their phones? Probably a lot. But given a choice, will they spend $1.99 for a song when they can get it elsewhere for 99 cents? Better yet, will they pay for these downloads at all when they can get them for free off the Web?
One thing is certain. Kids always seem to be doing something that adults — like AT&T and Napster — never expect.