Analysis

Nokia takes MixRadio into China after hitting 30m-track milestone


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MixRadio has been an interesting turnaround for Nokia’s digital music business. Where Comes With Music was widely hyped but underperformed in the market, MixRadio has been relatively under the radar for much of its life.

However, it has been quietly impressive in its execution and engagement from users, as well as in its focus on curation long before companies like Beats Music were making it their central selling point.

The only sticking point is that its growth has been dependent on sales of Nokia smartphones – not something that’s under the control of the company’s music team.

This week has brought two more reminders of the hard work that Nokia’s music team have been putting in to MixRadio. First, its catalogue has now reached 30m tracks, which Nokia claims puts it “ahead of all other radio-based streaming services”. The milestone comes as MixRadio is available in 31 countries on the company’s Lumia-branded smartphones and tablet.

Second, MixRadio is launching in China, promising an emphasis on Chinese charts as well as global artists. Another first, according to Nokia, with other global streaming services still shy of entering the Chinese market.

What’s unclear for now is how big a deal MixRadio’s launch will be in China, if it’s still tied to sales of Nokia handsets. For example, Kantar WorldPanel ComTech claims that in the final quarter of 2013, Windows Phone accounted for 5.2% of smartphone sales in China, well behind Android’s 57.2% and iPhone’s 35.2%.

Meanwhile, Nokia’s reference to the fact that 500m people in China currently access the internet through a mobile device doesn’t distract from the fact that the company’s own financials show it sold just 11.5m mobile phones in China in the first three quarters of 2013 – Q1, Q2 and Q3. It didn’t declare unit sales for Q4, following news of the company’s upcoming sale of its devices division to Microsoft.

Nokia is holding a press conference in Beijing tomorrow (27 March) which is likely to shed more details on its plans for MixRadio in China: perhaps it will expand the service to Android and iOS there in an effort to capture more of those 500m mobile internet users.

It would be a new marketing challenge for Nokia and MixRadio, though. VP of entertainment Jyrki Rosenberg told Music Ally in October 2013 that “the great majority of users activate it” on Lumia devices, which sold 36.1m units between late 2011 and the end of Q3 2013.

China is intriguing new ground for MixRadio, but if preloads aren’t the only strategy there, Nokia’s hard work is just starting to persuade Chinese music fans to try the service ahead of local offerings.

Stuart Dredge

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