Music Gone Mobile

Ring tones, text to screen, and text alerts: these are the wireless media types we think of most when we think of music and artists engaging the mobile channel. Music represents the lion’s share of mobile data revenue today, with artists and labels working to engage new digital channels in their marketing initiatives. They don’t just use mobile (which is my mantra), but all interactive media. Music videos, ads, and banners all drive loyal fans to music informational sites and music venues.

Music provides an immediate ability to customize and entertain. Ring tones and ringback tones (define) allow consumers to show the world their affinities and perhaps a bit of their personalities. Major brands know that integrating recording artists with their media campaigns targets a new brand of consumers, such as Ford and Jay-Z; Madonna and iPod; and Snoop Dogg and XM Satellite Radio.

At MidemNet Forum this past weekend, the music industry came together to discuss how it can offer consumers more choices and take advantage of digital delivery and new technologies. The program featured great debates over DRM (define) and how creators and enablers can come together to leverage new technologies.

IPods, iPhones, Zune, Chocolate… mobile devices are a big element of the conversation. As Chris Anderson, author of “The Long Tail” stated, the record’s function is shifting with every laptop out there. Consumers can now record, mix, market, and distribute from their PCs. Artists have newfound opportunities to market their brands and gain access to consumers they never would have reached before. Anderson believes it’s going to be harder to target broad audiences (the commonalities). The recording industry must instead reach smaller audiences with unique preferences. There is now “no Top 40, but many top 40s all over the world,” said Anderson. The grassroots are rising, and all players in the ecosystem — from artist to supplier to consumer — win.

Where does that leave mobile? According to Terry McBride, CEO of Nettwerk Music Group, “Don’t tell the consumer how to consume. Be everywhere where they are so they have the choice, not us.” Mobile distribution through the consumer is key, and MySpace is just the beginning. Consumers and word-of-mouth (or P2P) marketing is emerging like never before.

The music market can create the best for consumers: the best price, the best opportunity, the best choice (read: catalogue), and the best experience. Artists are learning how to market themselves and reach consumers through the channels they use most, and new channels are helping underserved artists to find their audience.

Case in point: Canada’s Steve Page from the Bare Naked Ladies (BNL) discussed how the band is using all distribution forms of digital and physical marketing to get messages out before and after events. BNL has learned how to make fans part of the benefit. über-fans become a distribution channel eager to share in the band’s success. “[We] cannot punish fans for what technology has brought them” says Page. “Let’s give them more through every channel.”

I participated on a mobile advertising panel in which we discussed the impact mobile advertising will have on the music industry. Mobile presents an opportunity for fans to gain access to richer music content but also allows musicians and labels to generate more revenue through the emerging channel.

Will consumers soon have unlimited access to free music on mobile devices? Some players will undoubtedly offer this model. But more than likely, we’ll see an evolution into some free services and some pay services. Ultimately, it’s putting choice and control in consumers’ hands. We’re in the early days of mobile advertising. Creating a set of tools the industry can deploy quickly is paramount.

Music is already available through mobile. Ad-supported music is already available through mobile. The models and media channels are becoming more sophisticated, and industry models are evolving as we protect the interests of both artist and consumer.

Imagine you’re watching a music video on your mobile device and at the end of the video you have the opportunity, through a single click experience, to buy the artist’s T-shirts, CDs, live tracks not available through any other media, or event posters. It’s everything you could possibly imagine, all through one multimedia device: your phone.

This scenario isn’t for next year. It’s here now.

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