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Mobile Music Takes Center Stage at Global Wireless Summit

Posted in News on May 25, 2004
Harnessing the power of the consumer as well as meeting their quickly developing demand for mobile content was the fulcrum of the Global Wireless Summit held in Los Angeles May 19 and 20 at the Wyndham Bel Age Hotel. The two-day conference, sponsored by BMI, had over 250 attendees and presented a diverse array of opinions from such industry leaders as EMI Recorded Music, Warner Music Group, WiderThan.com, Universal Music Group, Buy Music, Musicphone, Fox Music Publishing, Virgin Mobile USA, Cellus USA, NEC America, Inc. and many others.

Click here for photos from the Global Wireless Summitt

The predominant opinion of panelists was that 2004 will see doubling if not tripling of mobile content revenues, and that ringtones may eclipse singles sales for the music industry. Consensus for retail revenue projections for the mobile entertainment market ranged from $175 million to $200 million for the U.S. in 2004, according to industry experts at the event.

John Ingham, Head of Content Acquisition for O2, a leading mobile content provider in the UK, discussed the European market in his second-day keynote and shared the opinion that realtones might become the format of choice for content-hungry consumers in the future. Ingham projected 2004 ringtone revenues in the UK at approximately $155 million (US). Noted in his speech, the average O2 subscriber in 2003 generated more than $7 (US) per month in non-voice charges. It was noted that while there are many names for the master recording ringtone � realtones, truetones, mastertones, and songtones � these different names might make it difficult to brand this new offering to the consumer. Nevertheless, this emerging format appears to be the next industry revenue generator.

Adrian McAloon from Ztango, a U.S. wireless multimedia services provider, commented in an industry spotlight that “future growth will be dependent upon the creative merchandising and effective presentation of content across services.” Referring to a current campaign with Enrique Iglesias on AT&T Wireless, he added, “it’s now about simplifying the purchase process for the consumer and presenting content effectively.”

In an industry spotlight, Jonathan Kim of SK Telecomm’s WiderThan.com shared the success story of the Korean ringback market, which generated more than $100 million in retail revenues in its first year of operation. In Korea, the mobile music market has surpassed the physical music market in terms of revenues and unit sales. Ringbacks is a new service that gives subscribers the ability to program music to replace the ringing sound that a consumer hears before a phone call is answered by the recipient.

During the “Film and Television Based Mobile Entertainment” panel, Hollywood Reporter’s Chris Marlowe steered through the power of the brand within filmed entertainment in the mobile space. “The future of premium based content will be driven by the power of well known entertainment brands in the content offered,” she said. Television brands such as American Idol, Big Brother and Nickelodeon’s “Kids Choice” Awards were noted for having boosted public awareness and use of text messaging as a consumer entertainment outlet through SMS messaging and polling programs. “Kids are now showing their parents how to use text messaging,” she said. While wireless technologies are still being upgraded across the U.S., Greg Clayman of Upoc quipped, “while Asia and Scandinavia might have the technology, they don’t have Jay Z.”

In a presentation on future distribution channels, Brent Wyman from Cellus USA pointed out how pre-paid wireless is fueling a new marketplace. Wyman focused on the quickly developing pre-paid card market, noting that within its first year of rollout it has grown dramatically. Leading Japanese advertising executive Tatsuto Ono, President and CEO, Mobile Marketing, Inc., highlighted the many mobile co-branding and premium based contests that they have created to drive sales and traffic in the Asian marketplace for the past three years.

SMS messaging and the future development of wireless gaming were touched on as two future growth areas in the mobile space. “Writing for the thumb generation,” was how attorney Steve Masur summed up the future creative process.

Other subjects discussed at the two-day conference included licensing of music and images, personalization, as well as the burgeoning publishing partnerships with printed media and mobile. WireImage.com photo wire principal Lester Cohen pointed out on “The Printed Word, Images and the Mobile Consumer” panel that WireImage, “is currently supplying celebrity content in five different countries as premium entertainment.” “Non-traditional outlets like mobile are out-flacking traditional media,” observed Ralph Simon, Chairman, Mobile Entertainment Forum.

Additionally, in a rooftop ceremony on May 19, Virgin Mobile was presented with the first BMI and Consect Wireless Innovator Award for their unique content and packaging initiatives. Accepting for Virgin Mobile was Thomas V. Ryan, music consultant for Virgin Mobile USA.

The Global Wireless Summit was also sponsored by Ztango, YellowPepper, Cellus USA, Hollywood Reporter, Gracenote, NEC, The Los Angeles Times, Stella Artois and Cricket Cola.

About Consect
Consect is a market research, strategic consulting and development firm specializing on the global mobile entertainment market. Focusing on music, communications, publishing and entertainment, Consect provides clients with key intelligence, advice and contacts in the mobile, music, TV, film and publishing industries, works with Fortune 500 companies in the practical development of mobile entertainment services, publishes industry reports and holds a series of conferences including the Mobile Music Conference (Miami and CTIA), the Global Wireless Summit (LA and NY) and the Mobile Publishing Forum (NY).

About BMI
Founded in 1939, BMI represents the public performance copyrights of songwriters, composers and music publishers with approximately 4.5 million musical works. BMI provides licenses to hundreds of thousands of businesses. Since signing the first blanket music licensing agreement for the Internet in 1995, BMI has pioneered innovative licensing solutions including online digital licensing and a multilateral agreement granting international rights in more than two-dozen territories for webcasters.