Life After Comes With Music: Thoughts And Reflections On Nokia’s Music Product Strategy

At Nokia World, I’ve had the opportunity to get some detailed updates on Nokia’s music product strategy but also to observe some changes in its positioning within Nokia’s broader strategy. Nokia has made commendable progress, establishing the largest global footprint of any digital music retailer and bringing a much-needed focus to emerging markets. But it also comes across as a lower priority for Nokia this year. At last year’s Nokia World, music was at the centre of everything, from the CEO’s keynote through to background images on presentation slides. Of course the intense level of expansion and investment of 2009 couldn’t be sustained and wasn’t ever intended to be. But music no longer occupies centre stage at Nokia; instead it sits as one among equals in the suite of Ovi services.

But there are some impressive milestones:

  • Ovi Music live in 38 markets.
  • Ovi Music Unlimited (more on that in a moment) live in 33 markets.
  • #2 OTA service in Europe (though of course volumes will benefit heavily from the fact Comes with Mu….sorry…Ovi Music Unlimited users can download unlimited numbers of track without paying incrementally, thus boosting volumes).
  • Ovi Music is now the #1 source of digital music revenue in Russia, India, Finland, and South Africa. In these admittedly challenged markets, Nokia has become the main digital music game in town.

Nokia is of course most closely associated with the often criticized Comes With Music. The service certainly hasn’t exactly been a rip-roaring success in Western markets, but it is getting some significant traction in emerging markets. And I’m still convinced the model can be a crucial element of digital music revenues in the future.

Since last year, Nokia’s flagship music service has undergone a rebranding exercise and is now known by the more pedestrian tag of ‘Ovi Music Unlimited’.  This is part of a higher-level process of bringing all Nokia content over to the Ovi brand. This makes good strategic sense for Nokia and delivers a holistic content value proposition. But it does have the adverse implication of making it less straightforward to opt just for a music experience. In short, it’s harder to escape Nokia’s Ovi cross-sell sales push.

For me though, the sort of multi-content integration which Nokia should really be implementing for music should be experiential in nature. Nokia has a deeper music story to tell this time round, looking beyond downloads to apps such as the cool-looking Gig Finder and its burgeoning developer community. Those are the sorts of assets that Nokia should build into the vanilla music experience, and not just as optional add-ons. A deeply integrated, multifaceted, and interactive experience emdded deeply into the DNA of the device is where Nokia could, and should,  steal a market-leading march. Particularly when the address book and mobile social graph are added into the experience. I’d love to see social location being as actively leveraged in music as in other Ovi services such as mapping and messaging.

Nokia is still all about connecting people. Now I want to see it connecting people through music.