Nokia and Sony BMG’s announcement today that buyers of select Nokia phones will get complete access to the Sony BMG’s entire music catalog is a model that’s likely to be repeated over and over in the years ahead.
Financial details weren’t disclosed. But presumably Nokia — which signed a similar deal a similar deal with Universal Music Group earlier this year — is paying a hefty licensing fee for this interesting marketing vehicle: $20 (my number) for every phone sold? Not a bad idea.
Traditionally, music executives have decried the idea of allowing their songs to be "loss leaders" for other products, arguing that music is "devalued" if customers don’t pay for it. They’ve now suffered enough pain that any payment mechanism has to look attractive.
This one still has holes: users can’t burn the songs to CDs or iTunes, the two most popular ways of listening to digital music. But they do get to keep the music they download after 12 months.
If you think about it, there aren’t too many consumers products that wouldn’t work for free music downloads, so long as consumer products companies are willing to pay the freight — and the labels take the plunge.