As Consumers Steer Clear of Mobile Music Downloads, iTunes Continues to Run the Show

Mobile phone band

New data released last night by ComScore shows that we might be waiting a while for the much speculated about mobile version of iTunes (or else, it'll pop up in Vietnam).

Consumers, it seems, are continuing to manage their media content via their desktop computers. So, is that good news for music streaming services such as Spotify and MOG, who have been bombarding the market with mobile apps and social media-style features? Yes ... and no. Yes, in that the iNoon showdown with Apple in the music streaming corral has been postponed. And No, because the general public shows no inclination to go mobile with their music downloads yet.

The survey, conducted in the U.S. and five European countries including the U.K. and France, claims that, while almost a quarter of the respondents—24%—said they listened to music on their cell phones, just 1.9% of them downloaded tracks straight to their mobile devices. The top supplier is iTunes, with 28% of the market, and Nokia's Music Store comes in second, on 22%, due in part, said ComScore's Alistair Hill, because of the way it advertises its service on mobile websites. "Nobody's really bothering to advertise music on the mobile Internet, and I think the music companies are really missing a trick here," he said. "Lots of people are listening to music on their phones, and around half of them are also browsing the mobile Internet. There's an opportunity to target people in terms of advertising at the point where they're consuming the music."

Could it be the record companies that are giving the music streaming sites such a headache? Although penciled in for some time in Q3, Spotify's U.S. launch is looking ever more precarious, despite it slashing its prices this week and last month's social media-esque relaunch. The labels are decidedly lukewarm on the Swedish firm's services, seeing them as "not net positive for the industry." It looks like a pincer movement by both the labels and iTunes may run the young pretenders out of town, although goodness knows how Rhapsody is managing it—perhaps its outgoing owners, RealNetworks and Viacom, have given it extra welly in the music business.

So, Apple holds the whip hand in the current situation—in three ways. First of all, its dominance of the digital media scene will go unchallenged, as that's the portal that music users go to first. Secondly, its amazing riches means that it can sit on Lala for as long as it likes without doing anything, perhaps waiting until Spotify turns its back on the States before it starts to phase in what Spotify's Daniel Ek calls "next-generation music industry"—that is, access to music rather than ownership—on its own terms.

Finally, its dominance on the tablet front. We've long heard how the iPad is killing off the netbook, and that, with mobile Internet getting better and better, consumers will find it easier to get what they want on the go than its current state. Admittedly, its OS is no different to the iPhone, but it's less fiddly than its smaller brother and thus easier to mess around on the Web. And that's what's going to make a big difference to which device we download our media to and manage it on.

[Image James Cridland via Flickr]

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