How Nokia Music is revolutionising music on the move

Features Paul Briden 15:28, 2 Nov 2012

Nokia has spent the last year expanding its Music offering in the run up to Windows Phone 8's launch. We take a look at where Nokia's unique service stands now

Nokia Music has been around for a little while now, since Nokia launched its first Lumia Windows Phone 7 handsets, in fact. It’s been something of a slow burner though, in part owing to the limited success of Windows Phone and Nokia’s handsets generally.

But now it’s had time to mature into a very appealing music service which looks set to kick off fully with the arrival of Windows Phone 8.

Nokia has designed Nokia Music from the ground up as a free music streaming service, but the company has explicitly tried to create something very different from existing services such as Spotify.

The reason for this, at least according to Nokia’s Director of Entertainment, James Bradbury, is that existing services tend to be used by what he describes as ‘the music mavens’, people for whom music is a central part of their lives and who take the time to carefully curate and maintain a vast music collection, digital or otherwise.

That’s not the majority of people, Bradbury explained at a Nokia showcase within the company’s new London offices.

The majority don’t want the hassle of micromanaging a catalogue, but still enjoy music. They also don’t want to have to pay, to be required to log into an account or to be restricted to only listening to tracks when using a data connection.

This is all according to the results of Nokia going out and asking people what they want from a music service.

Nokia believes it has hit on a magic combination of features which are wanted by a large section of mobile users who are presently not catered for, suggesting there’s a rich vein of potential users to be tapped.

At its core, Nokia Music is based around its ‘Mixes’ feature, which allows you to select a genre and view a selection of preconfigured mixes for you to stream.

Each mix is effectively a showcase of a range of tracks from within the music category, though there is the facility to make and share your own mixes too.

Nokia Music does also have a paid store where you can buy and download individual tracks or albums if you like, but Bradbury stressed that this isn’t really what it’s all about.

Nokia wants users to rediscover music and make it a part of their daily lives. And make no mistake, Nokia Music is very much a discovery platform.

That’s because it’ll throw artists and tracks at you which you might not have selected yourself, meaning it’s a brilliant way of discovering new artists and songs, or discovering established artists you’ve simply never heard of.

Nokia Music currently has 20 million tracks available for streaming in mixes or for purchase and there are hundreds of preconfigured playlists, including newly released music and chart music, but all this is set to expand.

The company says it has global label deals and is planning on establishing many more. And music labels seem keen to get involved, which isn’t exactly surprising when you consider it’s essentially free advertising – it’s a good way of getting content out there with the chance of users buying stuff they’ve sampled.

The service is advert free, subscription free and Nokia only makes you sign in once.

Best of all there’s also offline caching, which means if you really like a particular mix you can hold press on it then select ‘make available offline’ and it’ll download the playlist so you can listen to it wherever you like, even on the Tube.

Nokia pointed out that it isn’t competing with Microsoft’s own Xbox Music service, which comes pre-packaged with Windows Phone devices, saying the two services offer very distinct roles and in fact compliment each other.

In part that’s because Nokia Music can upload and scan your existing music collection and form a music ‘Profile’ for you, which it’ll use to suggest new artists, tracks and mixes – Nokia compares this to having your own personalised radio channel.

Bradbury says Nokia Music is primarily a streaming service and music discovery platform while Xbox Music is aimed at bringing your paid-for music collection across tablet, phone, PC and console. Meanwhile, Nokia Music is ‘mobile optimised’ and focusing on the handset space.

We did ask whether Nokia had plans to support Windows 8 tablets and PCs with crossover apps and services but weren’t given a clear answer on this. It remains a possibility, but whether Nokia will pursue this avenue is very much up in the air.

The new build of Nokia Music, which comes with Windows Phone 8 Nokia models and will arrive on Windows Phone 7 Nokia handsets with the 7.8 update, introduces support for Dolby headphones, a gig finder feature to help you locate nearby concerts and social networking features for sharing your music and mixes.

There’s also an improved ‘rich’ artist information section and although it depends on what an individual artist has set up it can show you a biography, artist Twitter feed and nearby gigs for that artist. The Lumia 920 also has a built-in sound equaliser so you can configure your sound to get the music just how you like it.

Nokia Music is clearly a bid to get more people buying Nokia Windows Phones and it’s a neat unique-selling-point which is bound to turn a few heads.

But importantly, it’s a nice feature for those who’re convinced to opt for Nokia handsets for other reasons, such as the cameras, displays and bodywork.

After all, who doesn’t like free music?

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