In search of heroes and musical oddities
HERE’S a novel attempt to try to break Apple’s stranglehold on the music download market: charge people more for every song they download.
On the surface it may not be the most genius marketing idea ever “blue-skied” around a boardroom, but mobile phone company Nokia hopes to appeal to the more discerning type of customer.
Nokia’s new music download service was introduced with a very snazzy promotional video, directed by Wim Wenders and featuring David Bowie talking about musical inspiration. The video featured a number of key independent record shops around the world, all of which will play a key part in Nokia’s campaign.
Apart from the fact that people will now be able to easily download music to their Nokia phones, the USP here is that the company are using a “human recommendation” service. By signing up what they believe to be the key 40 record shops in the world, Nokia hopes to tap into a massive well of knowledge which will astutely guide customers towards the best new music out there – according to their tastes and preferences.
“It’s like an online store of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity 40 times over,” says Nokia. “We’ve recruited the most knowledgeable people from the best shops around the world, whose day jobs are to listen to thousands of tracks every week and recommend the best.”
While Apple will still have a far larger library of music, Nokia is hoping that a certain sector will be nudged towards its service because it will contain many rare and difficult-to-find tracks. Each individual song downloaded from Nokia will cost about 16 cent more than the regular iTunes service.
It’s an uphill battle for Nokia, since Apple still has more than 80 per cent of the music download market. In Nokia’s favour is the fact that many people regard iTunes as the supermarket of the online world: the content may be huge, but there’s little guidance for customers. Nokia’s “bespoke” service will offer hand-selected music that is deemed to be the best in its genre, and customers will receive personalised recommendations every month.
The phone company has certainly done its research. The participating record shops include New York’s Fat Beats, Chicago’s Reckless, Berlin’s Hard Wax, Tokyo’s Mona Records and London’s Pure Groove.
On the launch video, Bowie says he got involved with the service because “unfortunately, so much music goes unheard, especially things that don’t bow to the mainstream. Music Recommenders helps you navigate the undiscovered music that is out there. I’ve actually been to some of the stores featured on Music Recommenders in various parts of the world and found them to be a wonderful source for new and less traditional music.”
Bowie was sold on the “human recommendation engine” aspect of the service. This allows people new to, say, reggae to receive recommendations from someone in Jamaica who has lived his or her whole life around reggae and knows most everything there is to know about it.
There’s an actual war going on behind this battle over the music download market. It’s all to do with the much talked about, and apparently soon to be launched, Apple iPhone. Can Apple pull off the engineering feat of producing a combined phone and music player that is as small and sleek as all the other products in its range?
What Nokia and Apple both have in their sights is the strange anomaly in the marketplace whereby people who already have an MP3 player function on their mobile phone choose to ignore it in favor of a stand-alone MP3 player.
There has always been a resistance to the idea of the combined phone/MP3 player, and whether this can be overcome by Nokia’s entry into the marketplace or the launch of the iPhone remains to be seen. Let battle commence.
Hard cell: Bowie in bed with