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Happy handset vendors, no joy for rightsholders

Demand for music phones is surging, according to M:Metrics’ latest figures. In the US, although only 17 per cent of subscribers have a device capable of playing back music files, this has more than tripled between January, 2006 and January, 2007.

But there is no good news to be had for music rights holders – subscribers overwhelmingly prefer to transfer songs they already have onto their devices, rather than download them from carriers’ portals or other vendors.

Britain appears to be furthest along in mobile music adoption. 40 per cent of subscribers have music-enabled phones, and 12.2 per cent (by far the most) have side-loaded music on them. But even here, the proportion who bought it over-the-air is tiny – 2.7 per cent. The next closest market is Italy, where 10 per cent of subs sideload, and only 1.3 per cent buy. In Spain, where 8.4 per cent of subscribers sideload, 2.4 per cent buy. Everywhere else M:Metrics has figures for, the percentage of subscribers who buy music from their mobile operator is less than 1 per cent.

If the news is grim for proponents of pay-for-play downloads, it’s better for handset vendors. The data clearly show that quality devices are vital to mobile music adoption. For example, two-thirds of the UK’s Sony Ericsson W850i devices have been used as music players, the role they were specifically designed for, and half of the Nokia N73 and N80s.

The surge of music use in the US almost certainly reflects the launch of LG’s KG800 Chocolate and the Motorola SLVR L7. M:Metrics calculated that owners of these devices who also have a dedicated music player are 60 per cent more likely than the average to use the phone instead.


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