Music to your ears: Warner outlines content distribution vision

By Jason Ankeny From Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young to the Traveling Wilburys, supergroups—i.e., bands of existing bestsellers coming together to ring up even greater sales—have long been a staple of popular music. During his keynote appearance Thursday at BREW 2007, Warner Music Group Senior Vice President of Technology Strategy George White addressed a similar vision for mobile music content, touting a new partnership with conference host Qualcomm to create artist-branded, bundled themes comprising ringtones, wallpapers, full-track songs and games in a single file download. “Mobile themes give WMG artists another way to deliver rich multimedia experiences to consumers,” White says. He pointed to the success of Japanese operator KDDI’s Chaka Uta Full service, which offers full-track downloads complete with a series of pre-set edit points enabling consumers to create their own ringtones. By contrast, White says, Warner produced more than 200 mobile products and services promoting hip-hop star T.I.’s 2006 debut King—at an average of two minutes of browsing per transaction, a T.I. fan would be forced to spend an eight-hour day simply to download all the mobile content related to the rapper. “The key is stepping into the new—taking many innovative products and combining them in new ways that leverage mobility and connectivity,” White says. He outlined a series of interrelated products and services designed to expand the user experience across multiple devices and platforms, as well as nurture relationships with consumers beyond the original premium transaction. For example, a song file could include a prompt to register the download, opening up a stream of content like artist news, videos and related promotional content. In the days, weeks and even months ahead, the consumer would receive new content, services and information as it becomes available, ranging from do-it-yourself ringtones and remixes to a social network spanning all listeners who purchase the content in question. White also explored services exploiting the selling points of each individual platform—e.g., the increased real estate of the PC screen would enable room for content beyond artist videos and photos, like links to a music retail service provider. “We need to create a seamlessly portable experience to any device,” White says. “The [digital music] experience must be interoperable with all of a fan’s networked devices—in addition, we envision new consumer touch points for months, maybe even a year after [a record’s] release.”