The music industry
as we know it is undergoing serious turmoil.
Technology has advanced far more quickly than music labels have, and it
feels like they're still grasping for a new business model. A lot of
things are moving in various directions; there's iTunes, there's the
various subscription services, there's the CD business and there's the
mobile music business. iTunes
has obviously done well for itself,
overtaking Wal-Mart as the largest seller of music in the United States.
Rhapsody and Zune
subscription services also have great value, but one
area that's struggling mightily is the mobile download avenue.
It's odd to think that a mobile service would be struggling given the
explosion in popularity of smartphones and mobile data consumption.
Nearly everything in mobile has been used more now than ever; people are
more connected to mobile maps, mobile social networking apps, etc. But
mobile downloads in music? Not so much. According to a new report on the
matter, less than 2% of mobile users in the U.S. and western Europe
have "used their phone to download music in the first quarter."
24% of users used their phones to listen to music, but obviously, the
vast majority loaded those songs before they left the house. The biggest
problem is usability. Most mobile download services aren't easy and
quick to navigate. Mobile users are typically on-the-go, with only a
small amount of time to tinker with their phone and find whatever music
they may be craving. But even with sophisticated services, such as the
mobile version of iTunes, it's not very convenient to download a song
onto a device and then try to get it onto your PC later. Also, when
stuck in spotty 3G areas (or worse, 2G/EDGE), it could take quite awhile
to download an entire album.
Is there any way for music companies to convince more mobile users to
access, download and buy music on their phones? It's hard to say, but
honestly a lot of it is out of their hands. Once 4G covers the nation,
now that might be a different story...