Nokia has announced that its free music streaming service originally titled "Comes with Music" is going to shut down in most markets. The service, which was bundled with select handsets from the mobile phone manufacturer launched in late 2008 with the support of the four major music labels: Universal, EMI, Warner and Sony.
According to Nokia, the reason the service didn't perform is because of its inclusion of copy protection on the tracks, which locked the music to the device. "The markets clearly want a DRM-free music service," a Nokia spokesperson said.
In the Reuters report from this morning, other reasons for "Comes with Music's" failure to gain traction were cited. These included its use of older handset models for the product at launch and its "difficult to understand product offering."
The service will now be shut down in 27 countries worldwide, but Nokia will continue to offer free music downloads with 12-month subscriptions in China, India and Indonesia and with 6-month subscriptions in Brazil, Turkey and South Africa, the report states.
In an interesting twist, the would-be iTunes competitor allowed users to keep all the tracks they had downloaded, even after the subscription period ended. In a way, it represented the best of both worlds (downloads & streaming): tracks you owned and music available via subscription-based "all you can eat" online catalogs.
But apparently, it never caught on.
Is DRM the Real Issue?
Nokia says that the issue is the DRM (digital rights management, a copy protection technology) placed on the tracks, which restricted your access to the music.
That's funny because Nokia's offering is not all that dissimilar from currently up-and-coming streaming services like Spotify, MOG and Rdio, all of which provide large catalogs of songs playable on the phone. In addition, these services have either a robust Web interface or a desktop software interface for accessing the music via PC, and for creating playlists, favoriting tracks, organizing your library, etc. But Nokia's Unlimited Music service also let users play tracks via its Nokia Ovi Player software on a computer.
So it seems that if MOG, Rdio and Spotify and the like can be successful with such a similar business model, Nokia could have been, too. Perhaps 2008 was just too early to launch subscription music?
Nokia says that its Ovi Music Store, which offers DRM-free music downloads, will not be affected. The Music Store is available in 38 markets.