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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 July, 2005, 08:22 GMT 09:22 UK
Musicians go mobile to reach fans
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website

Andy Cato of Groove Armada
Andy Cato is currently DJing on the Spanish island of Ibiza
Musicians have begun looking to mobile phones to reach fans directly, bypassing the record label.

Andy Cato of dance act Groove Armada has teamed up with O2 in the UK to offer tracks for download to mobiles.

"If this works, it'll give left-of-centre music a presence in a potentially large market place," he said.

Mobile operators and handset makers are scrambling to provide music to mobiles, turning them into portable jukeboxes.

Sony Ericsson is bringing out a range of Walkman-branded phones, while Motorola is working on an iTunes-compatible mobile with Apple.

Quick turnaround

While many people own digital music players, often the one gadget they carry all the time is the mobile phone.

As mobiles become more sophisticated and offer more storage space, the industry is looking at ways of tapping into people's appetite for digital music on the go.

Artists such as Andy Cato, whose band Groove Armada is known for hits such as Superstylin', see this as an opportunity to sell tracks to fans quickly, without relying on a record label.

As a solo artist, he is free to make his own music deals, although Groove Armada will continue to make records and tour together.

It means he will get a far greater share of the revenues, which will be shared with O2.

"With labels, it is impossible to calculate how much you get per song," he explained. "When you do, you weep."

Cato is going to offer two tracks a week for download to mobiles from Friday 8 July, costing 1 each.

"What appeals in terms of dance music is the speed of the turnaround," he said, recalling the early days of dance music when new tunes made their way to the clubs within days of being produced.

"Working on a new track on a Monday and releasing it on a Friday is an adrenaline-fuelled way of working," he told the BBC News website.

He is also planning to work with other music producers to help them distribute music by mobile.

'Incredibly annoying'

Unlike other tracks offered by the O2 music service, Andy Cato's tunes will not have any digital rights protection (DRM).

Sony Ericsson Walkman mobile
Sony Ericsson is planning Walkman-branded mobiles
It means fans will be able to transfer them without constraints to a PC or burn them to a CD.

It also means that there is nothing to stop them appearing on file-sharing networks. Cato admitted he was "incredibly annoyed" when he saw Groove Armada songs illegally being shared online.

Describing himself as a Luddite, he said he had not heard of DRM until he was flown into London from Ibiza to promote the O2 service.

But he added that trying to stop illegal copying of tracks with technology or lawsuits was "like trying to hold back the tide".

Groove Armada fans could be frustrated as Cato's tracks will only be available through O2's music service, which only currently works on two handsets, the Siemens SX1 and the new O2 XM mobile.

Music scramble

For O2, music downloads are the latest salvo in the battle to win over consumers.

Just about everyone in the mobile industry seems to be making plans to jump on the digital music bandwagon.

Sony Ericsson has joined forces with online music service Napster to develop a service for mobiles.

And rival Motorola has partnered with Apple to create a mobile tied in to the iTunes music store.

Handset manufacturers such as Nokia are working on mobiles designed for digital entertainment.

And Sony Ericsson will launch the first of its Walkman branded phones, the W800i, in August.

It is seeking to take advantage of the popularity of dance act Jamiroquai to market the phones.

But there still some hurdles in the way of music on mobiles.

Some people may have trouble transferring tracks from mobiles to a PC, and there are also issues about competing file formats for mobile downloads.

Analysts say that mobile phones still have some way to go before they replace more established music players like the iPod.


SEE ALSO:
Sony Ericsson launches Walkmans
14 Feb 05 |  Business
The future in your pocket
03 Jan 05 |  Technology
Apple and Motorola in music deal
27 Jul 04 |  Business


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