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Category Archives: Monday Musing

Monday Musing: What’s the Future of Music on Mobiles?

Every Monday, we at Omio will be casting an eye over the mobile landscape, giving a personal opinion on hot topics and how they affect our daily lives. Don’t hesitate to share your opinions in the comments below.

After spending an interminable length of time wading through Nokia’s impressive Comes With Music service – a download portal offering unfettered all-you-can-eat access to more than 2 million songs old and new – I all of a sudden felt…empty.

I had been given the keys to the candy store, full freedom to gorge on aural treats without limit to the morsels I could consume, and yet the experience felt ultimately hollow. What was the matter with me?

I’d already downloaded the entire back catalogue of Alisha’s Attic, Betty Boo’s seminal Boomania LP, some Jamelia, Asher Roth, Ashley Simpson, the discography of popular J-Pop duo Cibo Matto, an obscure French song I recently Shazamed at a bistro too cool for me to usually frequent and Jimmy Nail’s latest oeuvre, and it had barely touched the sides of the X6’s cavernous 32GB of memory.

There was little rhyme or reason to my Supermarket Sweep-style raid along the Ovi Music Store’s gorgeous virtual aisles, dragging copious WMA files into my trolley whilst cackling with gay abandon. There was no Dale here to stop me, and I was going to clean out the house.

Yet three hours and some 742 tunes later, I still wasn’t satisfied. Wasn’t this the utopia we’d all been striving for? The end to piracy? All music open and free to download as one sees fit (once you’ve paid up front and respected the DRM boundaries)?

Well, I thought it was…once upon a time.

When dial-up reigned supreme and Napster was the candy store (albeit with a checkout lady that took a reeeally long time to ring up your order), Nokia’s solution would have been pure fantasy.

Then iTunes arrived, and irrevocably changed the way I listened to music.

The ability to strip an album down and purchase constituent parts like spares for an old Ford Cortina completely shattered the way I engaged with my music collection, now fuelled by a need for floor-filling anthems and standout tracks rather than taking that cohesive journey of peaks and troughs as intended on an album.

My humble Walkman phone gave me the ability to ‘shuffle’ music, meaning that I was neither limited to a linear progression of songs on a C90 cassette or a carry case transporting my ten most valued CDs, but rather hours of various tracks able to be skipped and sorted through, customised and cut together like a personal DJ set.

This was truly the age of ‘all killer, no filler’, and I was brutal in culling music I didn’t want coming with me on my many travels.

If this is where I stopped, then I would have been totally happy with the premise of Comes With Music – simply choose all the songs I like, rip out the duds I don’t, stick them all on my phone, then out the door.

Except I’ve recently been spoilt by Spotify on the HTC Hero.

This isn’t simply being given the keys to the candy store, my mobile phone is the candy store.

The premium service enables instant access to whatever I want to listen to, when I want it, without interruption (phone reception permitting). The ability to also take the listening offline, Comes With Music-style, to listen to tracks in the Underground sets this apart from the rest.

Creating playlists on the fly, browsing through the latest albums whilst staring at the shrinkwrapped CD equivalent, forlorn and awaiting its demise in the rack at HMV.

My liberation from reliance on physical and digital music has been invigorating, looking in derision and disgust at my former love of MP3s as the latest songs from the hit parade are piped over the air and into my ears.

In truth, a track takes a mere 45 seconds to download from Nokia’s Music Store, but that is exactly 43 seconds longer than Spotify has now trained me to wait for music.

The exact same person who sat patiently on his 56.6kbps connection, waiting half an hour for a radio rip of the new Busta Rhymes single has become jaded by the prospect of procuring a brand new album, legally, in under five minutes.

It’s a shame and I am disgusted with my own impatience, but it has made the process of trawling through Comes With Music in a quest to find what I might want to listen to at an undetermined point in the future a bit of a hollow endeavour.

I don’t know what I want to listen to when I go out. I don’t know what I want to listen to five minutes from now, and there are services that cater to my erratic whim and desire for instant gratification far better than Nokia’s utopia ever can.

Comes With Music is a sleek and elegant answer to an old question – can I have all the music in the world on my computer? Yes, provided you pay £100-odd up front, have the patience and fortitude to download it all, and then adhere to all of the DRM restrictions and listen to it on a single designated device.

A trying time of attempting to download an album, over 3G, using the X6’s mobile browser was enough of a wake up call that Nokia’s solution was not music on the move in its truest sense.

Spotify, Last FM and their ilk are undoubtedly the future, offering an ephemeral reaction to the piecemeal nature of modern music consumption.

I want it all, wherever I am, at a moment’s notice. The future is a portable mainline to our musical veins, providing a torrent as opposed to the current trickle of mobile music on demand.

I was more than content to sit through another hundred Suitopia adverts or listen to Roberta telling me how great the Spotify service is, before the arrival of the Android application. Now streaming music to my phone is a permanent fixture in my lifestyle.

The implications for heavy data usage are many, and I have been burnt on occasion, but it was nothing a bolt-on couldn’t fix.

I do indeed miss the crackle of vinyl, using a Bic pen to rewind a tape, poring over the lyrics on a new CD inlay, even clicking ‘£0.79 Buy’ on iTunes, but when it comes to music on mobiles, streaming music services prove that you can take it with you.