Mobile music is failing warns researcher

The mobile music download market is in danger of stalling according to a leading music research outfit which suggests that the current trend to equip mobiles with music playback is nothing more than a passing gimmick.

A survey of 3,000 people by research firm Entertainment Media Research (EMR) reveals that while the iPod/MP3 player music market remains “unsaturated”, only 11 per cent of those questioned actually pay to download music onto their mobile phone. According to the research firm the figure represents a drop of 50 per cent from 2005.

Around a quarter of respondents were interested in mobile downloads. Less than five per cent said they were “very likely” to start mobile downloading. 44 per cent said that they were very unlikely to do so in the future with thirty-six per cent saying they prefer to download music onto their PCs.

Curiously perhaps, twice as many of those surveyed preferred a mobile that incorporated an MP3 player rather than a player with built-in phone. “Even amongst current iPod owners there is a surprisingly strong preference towards the concept of handsets incorporating music players rather than viceversa with 40 per cent selecting the former compared to just 27 per cent preferring the latter”, EMR said. “34 per cent claim to never want phone and player functionality on the same device.”

While EMR congratulated the mobile industry for converting “almost half of the interest of a year ago into early adoption” it warned that the “niche market. is in danger of stalling having successfully attracted early adopters but failed thus far to create mass interest.”

Phil Taylor, director, wireless internet applications at Strategy Analytics, says the report’s findings are in line with his own firm’s findings of last year. “There is a lot of evidence out there that music to the mobile is struggling but the sector is very young and there’s no slowdon in the emergence of music optimsed devices which will get better. The real question though, is do people want to download music over cell networks.”

Chief executive at EMR, Russell Hart told “Things are certainly not good for the mobile music download segment. Research tells us that downloading music to a mobile phone is all about immediacy.” He explained: “When someone hears something they absolutely have to listen to now, that’s when it works but this is limited in scope because there are only certain types of music that create that emotional response.”

Asked what the mobile industry could do to remedy the situation, Hart was unequivocal: “Drop the prices. Downloading a full track to your mobile costs between 50 per cent and 200 per cent more than other methods.”

Vitally, Hart recommends the industry get more with it, in terms of rolling out new music as it is released. “The industry needs to focus more on the chart and to promote it so people hear it first on the mobile.”

Ultimately however, Hart reckons the sector has an uphill struggle. “The majority of the population just don’t want to do it. Screens are too small. It’s just not a friendly experience.”

The report is available free for download at Entertainment Media Research .

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