Tonight Omnifone announced that they have partnered with handset manufacturer LG to create MusicStation Max (MSM), a pre-licensed, free, unlimited mobile music download offering. LG will fully subsidize the cost to consumers and operators will run the service.
MSM is an ambitious response to Nokia’s Comes With Music (CWM), but it is a significantly smaller player. Considered together these two subsidized subscription offerings represent an important shift in strategy in the digital music market and have strong long-term potential. To date mobile music has had modest success, often offering an inferior experience to PC-based services. Indeed their relative failure can be traced to their status often as mobile imitations of iTunes Music Store.
MSM and CWM break the mould in that they play to mobile’s strength and seek to carve out new, unique territory for the mobile platform. But for them to succeed, a host of issues need addressing, including consumer friendly implementation of the requisite DRM, incorporating consumers’ existing music collections, getting operator partners on board and (of course) getting all of the majors on board. Currently Universal is the only partner signed up to both offerings. But that will change. This is of course ‘The Year of Free’ in which record labels are pursuing increasingly adventurous digital music strategies in a bid to re-energize the flagging sector.
MSM is a very welcome and valuable addition to the digital music landscape and represents the kind of innovation the digital music space needs now. If it and CWM can get operators and remaining labels on board they have the potential to be critical additions to the digital music mix.
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