Nokia changed the game of mobile music when it launched its Comes With Music service, an “all-you-can-eat” offer where users can download millions of tracks for a pre-defined period of time and keep the tracks once that period is up.
There’s no need to pay for individual singles or albums; everything is included in the price of the device. At least 14 Nokia devices are compatible with Comes With Music, and their availability and price differ by market.
It’s difficult to determine how well the service is taking off. Industry observers say if it were going gang-busters, Nokia would be talking more about it. Nokia isn’t sharing specific numbers, but company representatives say they’re pleased with Comes With Music launches around the world.
In its second-quarter financial report, the company said it benefited from “continued strong performance” by the flagship Comes With Music device Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, its first mass market touch product, which shipped 3.7 million units during the quarter. More than 6.8 million units have shipped since the device was released in late November of last year.
But Liz Schimel, vice president of Nokia Music, says the service isn’t a promotion to sell more handsets. “We’re bringing consumers into the ecosystem of music in a healthy way,” she says.
Nokia did a lot of research and tried to listen to customer feedback when it came up with its model, and it’s finding some interesting usage trends, she says. For one thing, the album is making a comeback. For another, the model encourages people to get out of their comfort zones and try new music without experiencing buyer’s remorse.
Of course, launching on a regional basis includes music native to that particular geography. But Schimel says the company also is working hard to introduce new music from around the world, so someone in Germany can get exposed to music they might like from India.
“We’ve been really pleased to see the response of consumers in how they use Comes with Music,” she says. The typical a la carte customer browses about three genres; Comes with Music customers are sampling on the order of seven.
So, what’s the catch? Nokia says there isn’t one. It’s crafted a business model where it’s bringing in revenue for the music industry, and it says the model works.
There’s no official word on when it will come to the United States or whether Nokia will only do so with an operator relationship. But when it does, it could be a particularly tough sell. Forrester Research analyst Sonal Gandhi says the U.S. music aficionado already is well engaged with Apple and MP3 players. Dedicated MP3 players are not as commonplace in Europe, where a larger percentage of consumers have taken to mobile music than their U.S. counterparts.
For now, Nokia executives say their focus is to make sure all the right conditions are lined up in the markets where it launches. Nokia sought out and hired music specialists. “We didn’t try to reinvent this with handset manufacturer folks,” Schimel says. “We pulled them directly from the music business.”