Consume the tune
With the impressive downloading capabilities and 8gb memory of the new W980
Walkman™ phone, Sony Ericsson has teamed up with renowned global music
journalist Steve Yates to review the latest trends and potential opportunities for the
industry of mobile music downloading.
These are remarkable times in music. For possibly the first time since the shift from
selling sheet music to records was made, the most revolutionary changes are
occurring in technology rather than the studio. The new music industry isn‟t simply
about what we hear, how or where we hear it, but how we get it.
Music phones are building on the changes wrought by the development first of MP3
players, and are set to have even more far-reaching effects. Until recently music
phones have always been one step behind, owned by many, used by few for
anything other than talking into. Mediocre sound quality, limited capacity, awkward
interfaces, slow download speeds; they all combined to keep music players
resolutely „sideloading‟ (i.e. we downloaded music from a computer at home or in the
But that‟s all changing with the new generation of music mobile phones like Sony
Ericsson‟s W980 Walkman™ phone. They are integrating the whole process of digital
music, resulting in a phone that delivers brilliant sound quality, download speeds
equal to that of broadband, enough memory to store thousands of songs and user-
friendly interface all wrapped up in something so sleek and stylish you‟d be tempted
to hang it on the wall if you weren‟t so hooked on having it with you wherever you go.
‘Music on the move’
For the user, the seamless experience is crucial. Music on the move is the only
method in tune with the rhythm of modern life. It goes everywhere with you, responds
to every whim, allows a change in your music with a change in the weather. Where
once I was content to carry my music on one device, my phone on another, I now
look back on my old self and wonder how I coped. The new generation of
Walkman™ phones means that not only can every track I‟ve ever loved be carried in
one pocket, with room left over, but a world of music I‟d never even known about until
leaving the house that morning can be accessed.
With the music mobile phone, the days of the deskbound downloader are numbered.
You can now download and buy a tune from a movie soundtrack the minute you
leave the cinema; you can add some last minute songs to your party play list or you
can download your favourite band‟s new single the moment after you leave their
The industry scoop
Industry experts predict there will be something like four billion mobiles in global
circulation by 2010 (according to Strategy Analytics, 2007), more than one for every
two people in the world, dwarfing the numbers for home computers or MP3 players.
As handsets increasingly combine features such as music, web browsing and email,
they negate the need for separate devices or even, for many, home ownership of
The United States music market is now 30% digital and the second largest single
music retailer is a digital store. The International Federation of Phonographic Industry
(IFPI), reports that legitimate online digital retailers provide access to six million
individual tracks, approximately four times as many as your average music
megastore, accounting for a global digital market valued at $2.9bn in 2007, up
by 40% on 2006, now accounting for roughly 15% of the total recorded music
Accessing anything and everything is set to increase exponentially with the growth of
3G devices - which will have much the same effect on the speed of downloads as the
internal combustion engine had on the speed of travel - increased availability of wi-fi
and the realisation that, wherever you are, the universal jukebox is just a click away.
The mobile music revolution
Traditionally mobile phone downloads have been all about ringtones (also known as
mastertones) and ringbacks (the music the caller hears instead of the dial tone).
According to Juniper Research, who specialise in the telecoms and media markets,
ringtone sales currently account for some 62% of the world’s mobile download
market. However as barriers to mobile downloading such as slow internet speeds
and restrictive formats are overcome, there is potential for full song downloads
figures to increase dramatically. In 2006, sales from full song downloads
accounted for 6% of digital sales, but that figure doubled in 2007 to 12%.
Consequently ringtone downloads are expected to drop to 38% by 2012.
Mobile downloads in Asia Pacific
Already mobile downloading is the dominant method in Asia-Pacific, where 3G
technology was invented and where it is the norm. It constitutes 94% of the digital
market (over 40% of the total music market) in Japan. In South Korea, which in
2007 became the first country where digital sales eclipsed physical, a telecom
network recently bought one of the nation‟s most established record labels, a
significant sign of the symbiotic future for music and mobiles.
Single track mobile downloads
These figures come as no surprise, for the trends are all in one direction. Now crunch
these numbers from 2007: In Japan, single track mobile downloads rose by 91%;
in Germany they were up 53%; there was a 140% growth in people using
phones for radio; a 78% growth in people using phones for MP3. Juniper
Research predict the worldwide market for mobile music will reach $17.5bn by
2012. According to a report by Juniper Research on mobile music adoption, author
Dr Windsor Holden said, "I think it's fair to say that 2007 marked the tipping point as
far as mobile music adoption was concerned.”
Mobile music as part of your life
And as the patterns of consumption change, so does the habit of when and where we
listen to music. Music mobile phones allow music to become part of your everyday
life as you can carry and listen to your complete music collection wherever you go.
Renowned pop journalist Miranda Sawyer celebrated the new reality, writing that
“music-lovers listen to music while we‟re doing something else” (driving, ironing,
commuting, getting dressed), as opposed to the condition of darkened, concentrative
solitude the artist might prefer.
Music has never been a primarily solitary affair. It‟s the spring in your step, the sound
that makes the most mundane activity memorable, the difference between a chore
and a pleasure. It is life‟s constant background, coming at you from all angles, an
ever-shifting aural scenery you can control at your leisure, a private movie you
soundtrack yourself. Mobile music downloading ensures the „soundtrack to your life‟
is constantly refreshed at the click of a button.
On-the-move downloading re-establishes the emotional connection, that snapshot
reminder of time and place, between the music and the music-lover, something that
was in danger of being lost as people downloaded their entire collections from the
privacy of their homes (and got round to listening to it later…maybe). Discovering
the music is as important as what the notes are. The experience of being there,
hearing it for the first time and remembering years later exactly what you were doing
is something that can‟t be replaced, replicated or faked.
Hear it now
Mobile downloading abolishes the time-lag between hearing and having. It‟s also by
far the best way to ensure you never inadvertently skip a beat by your favourite artist.
Justin Timberlake‟s FutureSex/LoveSound album spawned a massive 119 different
products, including singles, ringtones and video downloads, of which a mere fraction
were in CD format.
Other artists are reacting to changing times by thinking outside the box, which
increasingly means thinking outside the CD case. Radiohead exclusively released
their seventh album „In Rainbows‟ as a digital download in 2007 and international pop
group The Sugababes placed an entire concert on the web within minutes of their
show ending. With record companies and artists leaving traditional media until last,
social networking sites such as MySpace and Bebo are usually the first port of call for
the most dedicated fans. Likewise, radio is coming to the internet like never before,
with a range of digital stations.
For all the criticisms aimed at record companies‟ slow response to the digital age, the
music industry has reinvented itself more proactively than any other sector of
entertainment. Artists have responded to the customer‟s insatiable appetite with an
„always on, everywhere‟ model that reflects the quickening pulse of consumer
demand. Old formats are fading, elbowed out by newer, more dynamic models that
meet modern lifestyles more effectively. Even within the comparatively new MP3
market, old barriers are crumbling. We‟re fast arriving at the point where all but a
miniscule fraction of the music ever recorded is available for you to hear online, and
to own in your pocket.
With the trend of mobile music downloads and the creation of high quality music
mobile phones you can now consume the latest music for breakfast, lunch or dinner,
at home, at the gym, on the way to work or on holiday. The arrival of the music phone
means there‟s nothing left to hold you back.
Get ahead of the crowd
Enthusiasts now await the latest mobile phones with the sort of fevered excitement
once the hallmark of the build up to a new Prince album, speculating about what new
direction it will take, poring over the features and dissecting the design.
What will set you ahead of the crowd is the latest Walkman™ phone from Sony
Ericsson - the W980 Walkman™. While many handsets struggle with a crisis of
identity, never quite knowing whether they‟re for listening to, tapping on or talking
into, the W980 Walkman™ is clear about its intentions – first and foremost this is
about playing and accessing music.
The Walkman™ on Top concept means the user can manage all the basic music
features intuitively without even opening the shell. This may sound like it‟s putting
music first, friends second (and any music enthusiast can tell you, that‟s exactly how
it should be!), but Sony Ericsson know the beat can be both a private and communal
affair. Because of this, the W980 Walkman™ comes with an in-built FM radio
transmitter, enabling your music to be heard through any device with an FM radio
receiver. You can share your sounds with people around you, play it easily through
car stereos, making this Walkman™ a personal stereo with full social capabilities.
Hear and feel the music
Sound quality has so far been a problem for the enthusiast contemplating mobile
music. But the days of barely audible beats crawling out of tinny speakers have been
banished, yet another factor fuelling the rapid growth of mobile music downloads.
The W980 Walkman™ phone has pioneered the dramatic improvement in sound
quality, boosting the popularity of the whole sector. Through the W980‟s Clear Audio
experience you can hear music at it was meant to be heard.
The bass is rich, the stereo separation attains levels of clarity others can only dream
of and the whole experience is as close as possible to the original recordings. With
an 8GB capacity, there‟s no need to keep deleting to make room, as it stores
thousands of tracks. With the W980 Walkman™ phone you don‟t just hear the music,
you feel it.
Key mobile music industry statistics and facts:
The United States music market is now 30% digital
Global digital market is valued at $2.9bn in 2007, up 40% from 2006 and 15%
of total recorded music industry
(Source - International Federation of Phonographic Industry – IFPI)
In 2008 ringtone sales account for 62% of mobile download market – this is
expected to reduce to 38% by 2012
In 2006 full song downloads account for 6% of digital sales / 2007 – 12% of
Mobile downloading – 94% of digital market in Japan / 100% of South Korean
Single track downloads – 91% increase in Japan / 53% increase in Germany
140% increase in people using phones for radio worldwide
78% increase in people using phones for MP3 worldwide
Mobile music will reach $17.5bn by 2012
(Source - Juniper Research – Report on Mobile Music Adoption)
Background on author
Steve Yates is a renowned global music journalist who has written for some of the
music industry‟s most accredited magazines.
He began writing about music in the late nineties after many years selling the records
in the music shop he managed.
Steve is a regular contributor of reviews, features and columns for European and
global music publications such as Mixmag (the world‟s biggest clubbing and dance
magazine), The Face, UK‟s The Word magazine and the UK‟s Observer Music
Monthly. He has also written for global style magazine Dazed and Confused and
written for digital music website Tunetribe.
Steve‟s extensive music knowledge offers interesting insight into his experience of
how the way people consume music has changed so dramatically from the days of
buying the latest album from the local music store.