Warner Music is the latest of the big music companies to do a deal with Nokia over its Comes With Music 'all-you-can-eat' style subscription service.
Later this year, Nokia will roll out 'Comes With Music' on selected devices, a revolutionary concept being hailed by many as the potential saviour of a music industry still scrambling to achieve new revenue streams following the collapse of compact disc sales. With three of the 'big four' record labels now on board, it remains to EMI, still in talks, to make up a full house.
Consumers who purchase a Comes With Music device will be able to download as many songs as they like from Universal, Sony-BMG and Warner for a year. They are then free to keep it for as long as they own the Nokia device they are using, or transfer it to a PC. At the end of the year, it is hoped that they will pay a subscription fee to maintain access to the service, or continue to purchase tracks on an ad-hoc basis. Nokia are thought to also be in discussion with many other labels.
"Our belief is that consumers will be very attracted to this offering when they don't have to go through a toll booth every time they want a new track," says Liz Schimel, Nokia's global head of music.
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However, tracks downloaded to a Comes With Music device won't be DRM-free; you won't be able to play them on an iPod or Zune, for instance, or burn them to CD.
But as 'DRM' becomes something of a dirty word among consumers eager for the freedom to use music however they wish, the danger to Nokia's nascent service is that other companies may come along offering a similar type of 'all you can eat' music service – but without DRM. That would make Nokia's idea look a little old-fashioned very quickly.
The importance of mobile phones as a platform for music sales relates both to their popularity and to the fact that service providers have established billing relationships with their customers, upon which further music sales can effectively be 'piggybacked'.