Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Another Music Service You Didn't Pay for Shuts Down

Here’s another swing and a miss by the big music labels: “Comes With Music,” a plan to bundle music downloads with Nokia phones, is going away.

It’s not a complete failure, apparently, as Nokia will continue to support the service in six countries, including China. But it will pull the plug in 27 other countries. (It never arrived in the U.S.)

The idea, pushed in large part by Vivendi’s Universal Music Group, was that consumers would pay a premium for certain Nokia phones and get access to all-you-can-eat music.

A couple of problems, per Reuters: Consumers didn’t want it, and carriers didn’t support it.

It’s possible that the Nokia plan was sunk because of a complicated digital rights management scheme that more or less locked the music onto the phones. But it may be that people just aren’t that interested in paying for all-you-can-eat music, whether that payment is bundled into the price of the phone, or via a month-to-month subscription service.

In the U.S., there is no shortage of the latter–Rhapsody, Best Buy’s Napster, MOG, Rdio, Thumbplay, etc.–but they haven’t caught on despite years of effort. In Europe, for now, Spotify seems to be gaining some traction–people familiar with the company say it now has one million paying subscribers, up from 750,000 last fall, but that’s still not mainstream.

Subscription services were supposed to get more popular once they started playing nicely with Apple’s iPhone, but that has kicked in over the past couple of years without any noticeable bump. Now subscription advocates are pining for another boost from Google, which they imagine will end up partnering with one of the services instead of building its own.

And if Google wanted to, say, provide every Android buyer with a couple months of free subscription music, they argue, then subscriptions might finally catch on.

Could be! But I wouldn’t count on it.

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