The music industry is collapsing under its own weight. The days of physical distribution are dwindling, and digital has yet to replace that revenue. Well, digital does not need to replace physical distribution (i.e., shipments of CDs to stores), but rather the physical distribution eco-system needs to rapidly compress to keep costs in line with revenue and profits from that channel. But anyhow, the music industry is in trouble. And MOBILE is a place where the opportunity seems to be enormous.

  1. So, there are tons of mobile music options, like Pandora, IPhone/iTunes, Napster, XM and any other of a thousand options. The interesting thing that has yet to happen is the emergence of a free music product. There is no free mobile radio. (NPR has done an interesting thing, making some of their local broadcasts available via the voice channel, but that isn’t spot on to this discussion). Most services are either subscription based, or per song based.


Now, I love music. And I think that music is a key element in discovering one’s essential humanity. BUT, there is no way that I am going to pay for something that I can get free on the radio. Well, there are a few more options to most paid services, like custom playlists, samples, artist discovery, information value added services, etc. But fundamentally, am I going to want to pay $3.99, $4.99 or, heaven forbid $9.99 per month to access these services through my mobile device on top of my data plan? I don’t think so.

Here is where I would love to see the industry head:

  1. Music Industry: Figure out a way to make streaming your music so cheap that there will be 10,000 mobile radio channels playing all the time. This is a sticky wicket, I understand that. You have the costs of developing and producing the music that we want to hear, and that takes oodles of cash. But face it, the physical world is over for music. Grow your revenues by providing even more services to artists, like show promotion, merchandising, rights sales, etc. Either add value to the artists and become a marketing hub that drives profits for you and the artists or get out of the way. I, frankly don’t have the answers, but I am continually impressed with the creativity and intelligence, passion and drive of all I know in the music industry. The answer is there, somewhere, but restricting access to your content by charging users $6.99 a month (and then asking them to pay again to have access to the music on other devices) is not the right approach.
  2. Mobile Carriers: Face it, people already pay for voice and data. Cut them some slack and load up the basic service tier with lots of compelling content. The cable guys have been brilliant at this. (The only reason you pay $32.99 for basic cable is that it offers you a ton of value in increased content and reception improvements) So, give me 25 FREE radio stations with my data plan, and you will get significantly higher data plan uptakes, especially in the under 25 crowd…and they have the highest lifetime value of any customer…

Mobile music is a HUGE opportunity, and I believe that mobile will be the dominant growth area for music over the next decade. It just needs to be free.

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