Is music rental where it’s at?

The UK is going a bit mobile music crazy at the moment. This morning I went down to Paper in London to watch Girls Aloud at the launch of Omnifone’s Music Station service on the Vodafone network, which coincidentally also signalled the first time BlackBerry users have been able to get tunes onto their devices. Then there was also Nokia’s mobile music shop opening its doors – and all this ahead of the iPhone launch next week.

The Nokia idea looks like an identikit copy of Apple’s iTunes strategy. You can get tracks on your Nokia device or your PC and that’s all, while Voda’s strategy is more about renting music. I think to date, people have been a bit obsessed with what they get to ‘keep’ after paying their money. It may be true that if you stop paying Voda, you can’t access your tracks, but I see it more as a user controlled radio station – for £8 a month you get to change the music on your device as much and as often as you like.

Ok so you can’t have the music on you computer at home, or burn to a CD. I don’t know whether that is in the works but it seems like a natural progression to extend music rental to the PC at least. However, what the recent incarnations of the iPod have proved is that the portable MP3 player is also becoming the main stereo in the home through the addition of docking stations with big speakers.

Ideally, Omnifone needs Music Station deals with all the operators in the UK. Then when a subscriber moves to another carrier they can take their content with them. Unfortunately there’s an exclusivity deal between Voda and Omnifone, so it looks like Voda is counting on the service to build customer loyalty.

For the labels, well it looks like they’re coming to terms with the fact that people are just going to rip their music off BitTorrent or whatever anyway, so they’re looking for other ways to monetise content that doesn’t result in a permanent delivery. Rental is an excellent model for them – everyone is a repeat customer and a constant revenue stream.

One thing I don’t understand is: if Voda can sell you unlimited music downloads for less than £8 per month, including data charges, how on earth can it get away with asking £7.50 for a “huge 120MB” of data per month? Are mobile web users subsidising the download of hundreds of tracks a month because the music service subs are more likely to be ‘loyal’ customers?

One comment

  1. Avatar Manuel 02/11/2007 @ 12:55 am

    I love your final observation. The current rip off for data transfer is everyday more evident.

    Nevertheless, we have seen this situation before: we have to pay in the mobile for something we have for free on the PC. Not talking about flat-rate broadband (ADSL) now, but also music rental. You can visit lastfm.com and others and get free music playback (no storing, which makes it like a selective radio). But that costs GBP8/month on the mobile…

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