Light Reading

Music to My Mobile

Sarah Thomas
8/28/2014
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Wireless operators may be busy beefing up their networks to support video, but music is clearly the service that is catching their eye (ear?) the most in the US.

When it comes to promotions, partnerships and zero-rated app offers, music is the main focus in the US today. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) has a partnership with Spotify for a free six-month trial for its customers. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) inked a deal with Beats Mobile, which we should hear more about soon, now that Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) has acquired Beats. And this week, T-Mobile US Inc. added six additional music partners to its toll-free Music Freedom service, which it says has seen 7,000 terabytes of music streamed since its launch in June. (See T-Mobile: You, Seven Nights & the Music, AT&T's Strategy Boss Puts Content First, Apple Confirms Beats Buy for $3B and Sprint Plans More Bundled-Content Offers.)


Find out more about telco apps and services on Light Reading's mobile services channel.


In response to operators' growing interest in mobile music, Opera Software ASA 's Skyfire division today added streaming audio optimization capabilities to its Rocket Optimizer software, initially built to optimize mobile video traffic. As support for the popularity of mobile music, the company cites a Strategy Analytics Inc. study that says 77% of mobile users listen to music on their phones -- 70% at least once a week.

Operators are using mobile music as a way to differentiate their service and increase customer loyalty, and it's an approach that makes a lot of sense. Offering video as a toll-free app that doesn't count against the data cap would be a non-starter: The network would crash under the weight of it. Streaming music is a more network-friendly, lower bit-rate app that resonates with a wide range of customers. It's the low-hanging fruit.

What's more, they are finding willing partners in the over-the-top music services. In the past, operators have tried to pave their own way with mobile music -- attempts that ultimately failed, with the exception of Cricket's Muve Music. As a partner service offering, they're finding their customers are actually quite interested. (See Will AT&T Muve to the Music? and Comes With Carriers?)

That said, it's still a service operators will need to keep an eye (ear?) on, as listeners have been known to stream music for hours on end. It can still be a bandwidth-buster, and the economics make less sense the more it's used over LTE. (See 10 Ways to Mind the Mobile Data Cap.)

It'll be interesting to see what the next mobile app is to catch operators' interest (Games? Enterprise functions? Photos?), but for now, music is clearly the sweet spot.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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futurephil
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futurephil,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/29/2014 | 3:47:06 PM
another thing on streaming
Having music on your mobile is one thing. But unlimited choice isn't everything:
Nobody wants 20 million songs. Music fans want 20 awesome songs for what they were doing in a particular moment. They want them picked and sequenced by someone who knows lots about music.

One of my former editors, Jon Maples (http://jonmaples.com), wrote that at the beginning of the year and I think it holds up. If you're looking for a good source on the music industry and digital streaming, he's more knowledgable about those subjects than most mobile network operators. 
Kruz
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Kruz,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/29/2014 | 4:24:41 AM
Re: The sound of money
Agree, as Youtube's user experience doesnt exactly allow a flow of contineous music you can listen to. But it is just one direction it can go to as Youtube is highly available, hosts rich content  and simply very practical. 
Gabriel Brown
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Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/28/2014 | 1:15:21 PM
Re: The sound of money
Agreed, YouTube is not great in many contexts. 

But I think YouTube is great for discovery. Because everyone in your online life can access it, and send links and recommendations that everyone else can play back, you can get great exposure to music that people share becasue they it. I like recommendations from friends and contacts as much as (more than, probably) machine-generated discovery.

If you like something, then you go and find a better quality source (via download or streaming, or vinyl, etc.)

 
futurephil
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futurephil,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/28/2014 | 1:00:23 PM
Re: The sound of money
It is important for music marketing. I don't listen to YouTube while in the car, at the gym, hosting a BBQ or sitting at my desk. I do use it for music discovery, though, and I imagine students who have more sitting/watching/istening time might use it a LOT vs. paying for services.
Gabriel Brown
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Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/28/2014 | 12:54:11 PM
Re: The sound of money
YouTube is important in the streaming music discussion. I read somewhere that it's THE top music service based on number of plays. I can believe that. It's free, the catalogue is extensive, and I see lots of people using it for music.
futurephil
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futurephil,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/28/2014 | 12:33:26 PM
Re: The sound of money
Apple was pretty far behind in streaming music unless you owned a lot of music, then iTunes Match is pretty good.

For streaming, music discovery and sound quality, Beats helps Apple out a lot.
Gabriel Brown
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Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/28/2014 | 12:24:44 PM
Re: The sound of money
Phil -- is Apple a little behind in terms of a streaming music service?

Quite a few iOS users I know have turned to Spotify and are gradually dropping iTunes.
jabailo
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jabailo,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/28/2014 | 11:14:48 AM
Re: The sound of money
I've been a Rhapsody Music user almost from the time Robert Glaser left Microsoft to found Real Networks.  In fact, I pretty much skipped the entire era of downloading files and "tunes" because streaming seemed like a better technology (although, at the beginning the quality might not have been perfect).

I was a bit disappointed that Virgin, my carrier for many years, announced new data caps as they shift to LTE (why else would I want it except for data/media)!   I still have my mobile Wimax connector from Clear/Sprint which thankfully is unlimited, but I'd have to carry around a hotspot modem in addition to a phone or tablet to get it to work!

It doesn't make much sense to me that for $35 a month I was able to subscribe to unlimited Wimax mobile with Clear but that a phone carrier wants to charge me much more for LTE with a cap on it.   And especially in light of what you've written about LTE-only handsets.   What I've always really wanted instead of just a smart phone is the UMPC -- the Ultra Mobile PC.  An small, portably, long life, always networked device for doing computing outside, at the same costs as inside.
futurephil
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futurephil,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/28/2014 | 11:00:23 AM
Re: The sound of money
I think Apple and Beats will be a great combo here and there's a lot of integration work that needs to be done.
  • Beats Tune Your Taste vs. Apple Genius algorithm
  • iTunes Radio vs. Beats Tastemaker feeds
  • iTunes Match vs. Beats Download/Offline Mode

Because of the purchasing tie-in, I can imagine that musicians would be more likely to list their songs for streaming on Beats because the purchase via iTunes could be influenced much more directly, immediately.

Also, Beats is a cross-platform play. It could be Apple's key to getting some meaningful mobile app-related revenue from Android users.

-ph

 
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/28/2014 | 9:59:43 AM
Re: The sound of money
Yes, the music business went through the same digital destruction as the print media business, with just about the same results. Those at the bottom of the old trickle-down model -- namely the content creators -- have felt the impact the most. I wonder whether musicians still feel the same about the evil, parasitic record companies now that they find themselves selling t-shirts and CDs out of the back of their vans.
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