I’m holding a Nokia 6121 loaded with Vodafone’s MusicStation software, and to be brutally honest, I’m largely disinterested in the music and software. There are, however, two things about Vodafone’s latest musical forays that interest me in a big way.
Firstly, I’m very interested to see what my 13 year old nephew makes of MusicStation. I’m quite happy to admit that I’m not in the target market for MusicStation. I use an iPhone, perfer to listen to my music on a home stereo, and get hold of my music from a mixture of original CD ripping, and DRM-free downloads (more on that later). My nephew on the other hand, treats his Sony-Ericsson phone in the same way that I remember my father using a transistor radio. He carries it everywhere, and it seems to be constantly emitting loud, tinny music (although thankfully not the mix of Radio New Zealand National Programme and Concert Radio that brings back embedded memories of many hours weeding the vegetable patch in Papatoetoe).
I’m not sure where said nephew acquires his music from, but I imagine it is a “don’t ask, don’t tell” arrangement with various shady download sites. This is where my interest is really piqued by Vodafone’s MusicStation. At $2.50 per week – a fraction of pocket money for a modern 13 year old – and with trivially simple access to download music directly to the phone, I see MusicStation as one of the first serious, viable competitors to pirated music. If he can grab the latest track, for ‘free’, during a school lunch break, why would he wait until hometime to search for, download, then transfer the track to his phone?
I really think Vodafone are onto a winner in this market segment, and good on them for pricing it so competitively.
The second interesting development is the availability of DRM-free tracks on vmusic.co.nz. DRM-free is a Good Thing, especially in light of the recent Walmart DRM shutdown. If you have been ignoring the DRM naysayers, you should pay attention to the Walmart fiasco, because it speaks to the root of the problem with DRM: someone else controls your access to the music you have purchased. As Cory Doctorow puts it: the only people harmed by DRM are the people that legitimately pay for their music.
My interest is dampened slightly by the price of DRM-free music: NZ$1.99 per track. I understand that this compares favourably on a per-album price with most physical CDs, but my (completely unresearched) argument is that until DRM-free tracks are down at the sub-50cent level, we won’t see a significant impact on music piracy.
Overall, Vodafone are making some very interesting and effective headway into the music market, and if I understand the PR language correctly, we haven’t yet seen the end of their entertainment market innovations.