Making music for the mobile masses

If you want to grab someone’s attention, there are few better ways to do it than with music, particularly if you’re going after the youth market.

It’s one of the most obvious paths for sites such as MySpace and YouTube, which have been moving into music sales. Record labels are also starting to become more imaginative online – the most notable recent move was by Universal and its deal with SpiralFrog to offer free, advertiser-funded music downloads.

In the past year Universal has been extending its lead in the music industry – a market worth $33.5bn (17.8bn) a year around the world. According to research from Informa Telecoms & Media, Universal had a market share of 25.6% followed by Sony BMG, EMI and Warner Music Group in that order. Sony BMG was the only one to see its share fall, while independents and the other big three all increased their market share.

But it is in the mobile field where there is most to gain or lose for companies. People buy from many places before moving a track to their mobile, and increasingly people are buying directly from their mobile phone.

Apple has been the dominant force in mobile music, with its iPod. However, it is facing a serious threat from other mobile device manufacturers. Its recently revamped line-up, and its move into film downloads, is an attempt to shore up its position – one that has relied on forcing iTunes users to use an iPod and vice versa.

The good news for Apple’s rivals is that people say they prefer a mobile phone that can play music to a music player that they can use to make calls. As long as Apple fails to produce the much anticipated iPhone, the field remains relatively open for the likes of Sony Ericsson to grab market share with its use of the Walkman brand on its phones.

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