“The single biggest issue that’s facing the music industry is there are huge waves of devices being sold and shipped to consumers on a daily basis. Very few of these devices are then subsequently used to subscribe [to] legitimate downloads,” says Universal Music executive Rob Wells.
Enter Nokia’s new “Comes With Music” devices.
Announced at the annual Nokia World conference today, “Comes With Music” will enable customers to buy a Nokia device with a year of unlimited access to “millions of tracks”, and, rather surprisingly, get to keep those tracks once the twelve month period ends. Of the four major labels, however, Universal Music is the only one to have signed on. Nokia gave no further details, such as the type of DRM employed (if any?), and the likely cost of “Comes With Music”-ready handsets. Nor in which regions the service will eventually be made available.
“We set out to create the music experience that people are telling us they are looking for – all the music they want in the form of unlimited downloads to their mobile device and PC,” said Nokia’s Anssi Vanjoki in a prepared statement.
On the future of digital music, Universal’s Wells told Reuters that “we are moving into an access world” where consumers will be given access to a vast library of music “through the price of the device, or the price of service, or the price of broadband.”
The “access world” that Wells describes, and Nokia/Universal’s response, sounds a lot like the TotalMusic plan that Universal has been reportedly trying to sell to its music industry and technology partners. We first wrote about TotalMusic in September, describing it as a “music tax” on a user’s broadband connection or music device purchase. In a follow-up post in October, we clarified how TotalMusic might work with regard to cell phones or other devices:
For cell phones, the hardware manufacturers or cell carriers will absorb the cost of a roughly $5-per-month subscription fee so consumers get a device with all-they-can-listen-to music already enabled. It is not clear whether the devices will cost more to the consumer to cover Total Music fees or if they will be charged for the service through their phone bills.
However, where TotalMusic and the Universal/Nokia model appears to differ, is that, as already mentioned, users get to keep the music they’ve downloaded even after their “subscription” period ends. On that point, Wells says that he doesn’t expect customers to try to download all of the music that Nokia makes available.
“I don’t believe that every consumer who buys these devices will clot themselves on everything they can. I believe there will be large proportion of consumers that won’t use this device for any music,” Wells said.
Update: “Comes With Music” will employ Windows DRM. See our follow-up post ‘More details on Nokia, Universal’s “Comes With Music” offering, and why TotalMusic is doomed from the start‘.