Kids Have Discovered Music Swapping Via Mobile Phones

from the took-'em-long-enough dept

Sometimes it just takes a little longer for the delusions of the entertainment industry to be proven incorrect. Three and a half years ago, just as the mobile music market was taking off thanks to ringtones, a few of us were suggesting it wouldn’t last. What makes mobile content any different than other content? The economics of the content are the same, and it seemed like only a matter of time until mobile content had its “Napster moment” where the industry realized that people were sharing content left and right without paying for it. Amazingly, perhaps what’s slowed this process down was the fantastic incompetence of the mobile operators, who continue to try to lock everything down, despite it slowing the growth of the mobile data market drastically. There were signs of cracks in the mobile content market last year, and earlier this year there were loud complaints that mobile content was way too expensive.

All of that, of course, was simply preamble for the obvious next result, which came out in a study today making it clear that kids like using their mobile phones to share content. Many kids are sharing music via mobile phones using Bluetooth, and nearly half of those who aren’t already say they’d like to do so. As more kids get more advanced mobile phones, it’s likely all of the numbers will go up — and yet the recording industry still doesn’t seem to have much of a plan other than to hope they can keep convincing people to pay big bucks for ringtones (a market that will get killed as kids get better and better at putting songs on their handsets for free). The article about the report trots out all the expected lines about how the industry needs to stop this now, while it’s still small. Of course, that didn’t work very well on the greater internet, and it seems unlikely to be very successful on mobile phones either. At what point does the recording industry realize that perhaps it’s time to put in place a different strategy?

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Comments on “Kids Have Discovered Music Swapping Via Mobile Phones”

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SimplyGimp says:


If the “Industry” didn’t see this coming, then they MUST be blind. I mean good lord… give kids their own PCs and iPods, buy them music because you want them to shut up, then they go into their room and talk on their comps about the music and all this and that. Introduce BlueTooth and data cables for cell phones and it was only a matter of time until this made the news.

Although, this problem wouldn’t even exist if people would use a phone as a PHONE and not as a do-everything media device that so many cell phones aspire to be. Hell, I was content with my black and white, no camera cell phone until the antenna cracked a few months back. Even then, the cheapest most ‘basic’ phone available had a camera, color screen and could browse the web, none of which I care for on a phone.


(On a side note, I’m surprised USB thumb drives haven’t made the news more often about this as well. With cheap 4gig pocket drives, it doesn’t take much to load one with several dozen songs and head over to a friend’s house.)

pudro says:

Re: Well...

Thumb drives are nothing. Just get a portable drive (powered through USB). I have one that is 80 GB and can still fit in my front pocket (though just barely) or nicely in my inside coat pocket. You can get a 60 GB just like mine for less than $80 (shipped, from Newegg). And it doesn’t need to be babied, either. I share stuff between my computer and my brother’s all the time, 180 miles apart. I just throw it on top of my pile of stuff when I head back home every other weekend or so.

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe slightly off topic here but a friend of mine had a good idea a while back.

Why don’t the music industries start a p2p network and charge for access say $15 a month. The content of the network would be the responsibility of the members being allowed to share anything. This would mean that the industry would get an income and the users would get anything they want. I realise that the free networks already do this but they could tempt people by offering exclusive content too. (DRM free of course)

This would solve quite a few problems for both parties.

dance_bob says:

Why pay for ringtones?

It only amazes me that the downloading ringtones market has lasted as long as it has. My windows media player will rip a track from cd to mp3 (if nec. and not already mp3 ). An open source programme from the net will take the mp3 and edit/cut it to only the bit of the song you want as your ringtone. Then the bluetooth/IR port in the laptop will send it to the mobile.

Within 5 mins you can have any track you want – so why would you pay for the privilege? It’s hardly rocket science and so no wonder the sales are finally dropping.

I agree with “Simply Gimp”‘s comment about phones doing too much though. As the point of call in my family for all things technical, I know how difficult it is to find a mobile (in the UK at least) that DOESN’T have photo, wap etc capabilities. And my 80-year old grand-dad just wants to make calls. As does my father, mother and uncles and aunts. When will they realise that some people just want a phone! Oh, and the shrinkage of phones might be great for the nimble-fingered youth, but smaller key pads just make it hell for the older, less nimble with larger hands and poorer eyesight…

krum says:

Re: Why pay for ringtones?

You’d be suprused at how many people in the USA still don’t know what an IR port is let alone realize Bluetooth is for more than headsets. The mobile companies prey off the ignorant with the markup on ringtones. But, as far as I know VZW is the only carrier that fussbles the object transfer on some of their models. As to the older generation, check out Jitter-Bug mobile. They have handsets with huge keys, no camera’s and even a dial tone to make them feel like it’s a land line. Don’t know if it’s available in the UK but kind of cool.

The infamous Joe says:

Why buy the cow...?

I felt the need to point out to AC #2 that I wouldn’t pay $15 a month for something I can do for free… because $15/month > $0/the rest of my life. If they put up special content, then one or two people would buy it, and it would end up on a free p2p network in a few minutes.. hell, some p2p download software lets you download music in small, ringtone sized bites. (I’m looking at you, Bearshare)

Maybe if they make it free, I’d use it– especially if it worked from my phone, but until then, I’ll just use the tools described in dance_bob’s comment, which work extrememly well (minus the fact that verison disabled most of the bluetooth capabilities on my Motorolla v710– luckily it’s still got a SD card!)

and lest I forget, the ipod is completely cabable of sharing music, I’ve done it between my own computers ever since I found out where the music is stored on the ipod… itunes even helps a lot with it (if you feel like using itunes, for whatever ungodly reason)

Father of four (user link) says:

the customer of tomorrow

I miss the good ole days when I was a kid. We would pass around music on cassette tapes. Then when we had earned/saved enough money we would go out and buy the whole album. To this day, one of my biggest thrills is to hit the music store for the latest tunes.

My point here is that these kids are customers of tomorrow. Let them share the songs, big wuppin’ deal. They aren’t pirates selling this stuff to make a buck. It’s basically free advertising for the artist. The more a song gets around, a.k.a. radio, the more likely the album will be sold. Lock down the music from the kids and they’ll find someone else to listen to.

If you keep the kids locked out, I’ll guarantee you, when they become adults they will remember what a pain in the butt it was to get any music. Then again, maybe we should encourage this. It can only help the Indie music industry and in a generation or two the corporate music industry as it resides today will be all but a memory.

The infamous Joe says:

Re: Re:

I hear ya loud and clear, Bubba. I don’t know much about other phones, but my Motorola v710 was so seriously crippled (and without informing the consumer) That there was a class action lawsuit– if you bought it between certain dates you can return it and get $100 and cancel your contract if ya want or something like that.

If you do a little research on your phone, you’ll find that people have found ways to undo all (or most) of the crippling things verizon did to our phones to make us have to get ringtone from them and only them.

Check it out, I unlocked most of mine (bluetooth is still crappy), and it works great for getting my music to my phone!

Anonymous Coward says:

I’ve got a verizon Blackberry and I can use Bluetooth. Course, I could just as easily plug in the USB cable and transfer files that way.

I’m in IT. I bring my 60GB USB drive in with me – other guys have 200GB external drives. We throw them on our network (connected at GigE) and throw shares up on the net. Then we just peruse each other’s MP3 directories looking for music we don’t have that might be interesting. We can zip a CD’s worth of files to each other in about 20 seconds.

I’m slowly ripping my old CD collection – I use CDEX and the on line libraries for file names. Works great – takes about 5 minutes a CD – save it to my USB drive.

I suppose the record industries will change in about 30 years – when the “kids” who do this now become execs and the old geezers who are stuck in the 1900’s die off. Course by then it’ll be like, what’s a record? Maybe we’ll be calling it the MP3 Industry … 😉

Justin says:

My Thoughts...

I think if they would just lower the price of CD’s or the cost to download a single song or a flat monthly fee for your music downloads MORE people would pay for them! I still buy CD’s and Dowload music legally but I don’t do it much because the cost is SO substantial! STOP BEING SO DAMN GREEDY!!!! I’ll stick with my XM Radio. It’s only 7 bucks a month (Family Plan) and I love it!

gr8tango says:

zune-itis or ads?

I would expect that someone will latch onto the Zune model of share and play 3 times before purchase and make that easier than IR or USB based sharing. It will confuse the market, slow the illegal sharing, and create an expection of ease of use that will be blocked by the RIAA and carriers unless the Zune model is used. It will be a sad day, but that’s what I expect to happen.

On another note, maybe there can be a “watch this ad” model where you watch or listen to an ad and your music will be free?

David Yen (user link) says:

Accessability in the future of digital media

Frankly speaking, the phone companies should have and probably been expecting this. Especially with Bluetooth providing a gateway and easy way to transfer media succesfully, would they realistically expect their monopoly on ringtones would change? Plus, as phones continue to come out with more memory and compatibility with home PCs, it’s clear that teens, being the most tech savvy people today, are going to upload music and other media from their computers.

I don’t know what it is yet, but I’m sure that very soon, mobile providers will find some kind of clever way to market these kids, and squeeze another buck out of them. Terrible for the parents that actually finance their purchases, don’t you think? :]

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