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Musicians Reach Out to Fans Via Mobile Phone

The music industry sees handsets as great outlets for promotions and distribution.

May 26, 2003|Alex Veiga | Associated Press

Hip-hop star Nelly did it. Madonna is doing it. And British rock group Radiohead has plans to do it -- that is, to boost music sales by reaching out to fans through mobile phones.

With sales of CDs on a three-year slide, the music industry sees mobile phones as powerful outlets for promoting artists and a new way of distributing music for profit -- something it failed to do in the early days of Internet music-swapping.

In recent months, record companies have entered deals with wireless carriers and other companies to tap into a growing U.S. mobile market. The music companies are selling rights to their musicians' recordings and images to companies that create wireless content such as screen savers, digital images and song snippets. The content companies then sell it to mobile phone users over the Internet.

The record labels also are churning up ways to turn the mobile phone into a marketing conduit.

Some artists, including Madonna, already are sending e-mails to fans to alert them to a new album release or tour dates. Nelly used mobile-phone text messaging, similar to a brief e-mail but sent to a mobile phone, to rally fans who had submitted their phone numbers at concerts to call in requests for one of his videos.

Next month, members of Radiohead plan to reach out to fans directly over mobile phone networks on the same day they release their new record, said Vijay Chattha, spokesman for San Francisco-based Ipsh!net, which developed the promotion campaigns.

Ultimately, the industry hopes to drive CD sales and, eventually, direct sales of songs over mobile phones.

Experts and record company executives differ on the size of the U.S. mobile music market, but most agree demand for mobile entertainment has grown in the United States as Internet and text messaging-capable handsets become more common.

Ring tones, electronic snippets of popular songs by artists such as Carl Perkins and Iggy Pop, are used to replace the generic ringer sound of mobile phones and remain the top mobile music revenue draws.

But growth will depend on customers, and some already are being turned off by the rising costs of mobile products.

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