DENVER (Billboard) - At first glance, Nokia’s Tero Ojanpera and Dave Stewart might seem like an odd pair.
As executive vice president of entertainment and communities for Nokia, Ojanpera oversees all of the company’s music, gaming, video and social networking initiatives, including the Nokia Music Store and Comes With Music.
Stewart is a musician/producer best known as one half of the Eurythmics. In February, Stewart was named founding member of Nokia’s new Artist Advisory Council, an initiative created to foster an artist-friendly environment within the company.
But the two have more in common that meets the eye. Stewart has strong ideas on how technology and digital business models should benefit acts and their fans, and, in fact, was the driving force behind the council’s creation. Ojanpera, meanwhile, aims to combine Nokia’s entertainment content services with its social networking capabilities to help fans and artists better connect and communicate to promote and distribute new content.
For Nokia, the effort is central to its reinvention from a handset vendor with 40 percent of the global mobile phone market share to a Web services company. For Stewart, the technologies of today and tomorrow represent a new stage of creative and professional development he hopes to share not only with musicians but also with filmmakers and others in the creative community.
Q: Can you give us a better idea what the vision of the Artist Advisory Council is?
Dave Stewart: It’s a vision of the future where people would want to dig deeper in the world of an artist and where artists would be willing to be more experimental because the payment systems would be more transparent and different than they are today. It’s about artists linking together and being collaborative.
Tero Ojanpera: If you think about the artist’s point of view, it’s not about selling one track or selling a ringtone or wallpaper. It’s about how you create a discovery mechanism (that) represents the artist in a way that gives justice to their work. It’s not just putting something online in a digital format -- the technology will enable us to make a rich world where things come together in a really new fashion.
Q: How do you plan to achieve this?
Ojanpera: At this point it’s about understanding the artist and understanding the consumer and making that connection. The rest will sort itself out. It may need some facilitation, but we should worry about those two things first. If you can bring value to the consumer and to the creative talent, I‘m sure we will do well.
Stewart: Imagine a future where you have a little cloud above your head and in that is everything you think is groovy, and you can carry that along with you and pull it down to either watch or share ... and it’s all controlled by this little device in your pocket. The other part of it is that there are artists all over the world who don’t want to share much more than what they can control -- there are filmmakers who want to make 10-minute short films. So you can’t put everything into one bag. What you can do is create a facility that can put all that work -- whatever it is -- into a context and in a way (that) consumers can access it.
Q: Dave, what is your perspective as an artist on the current digital/mobile business constructs?
Stewart: What I‘m talking about is dropping a neutron bomb on the old paradigm of the entertainment industry and the way in which it functions. It’s completely insane. In America, it’s all gotten completely strangleholded by these providers. Nobody ever talked to artists about what they wanted to do. Steve Jobs didn’t talk to me about selling music online -- it just went straight to the music labels.
Artists make their work, and people come along and treat it like something you can chop up into bits and sell into other bits. They say ringtones is a $3 billion business; I still haven’t seen one cent on a “Sweet Dreams” download. There’s always been a bit of foggy accounting. There’s ways and means through technology and through common sense to create a way in which the consumer gets a fair deal and the creator gets a fair deal and business is good.
Q: So it sounds like the vision is to try to use mobile phones as a way of distributing content directly to fans without all the other layers.
Stewart: I‘m not going to try to do that. I am going to do it. It’s also about trying to get artists to understand that, in the new world, it’s not about making an album or a film that has to fit the exact demographic and exact length. It’s going to be a completely different world. I can send you clips of what I‘m working on and you can pre-order it. There’s a dialogue going on so you actually know who your fans are and where they are.
Q: Do phone manufacturers have more power in the mobile value chain now that entertainment services have made the phone more of a consumer electronics device and less a mere network access device?
Ojanpera: This is a great opportunity for the whole industry to grow: device manufacturers, carriers and the content companies. The fact that content is coming to mobile will enable us to continue to innovate for the industry. We have the strength to invest in this space, and that’s valuable to the content industry. This is not about who has more power or less power -- this is about, Can we attract the consumer to really use these services?
Q: So on that note, how is the Nokia Music Store doing?
Ojanpera: We’re not sharing any specific data. But the service is live in the U.K. and Germany, and we are launching (in) additional countries in Europe and Asia. So one could describe it as a store rollout phase for the next month or two and getting the catalog in place. The feedback from the U.K. store is good; people are using it and seeing that there’s an easy way to get music on your device, both side-loading and (over the air). We’re currently seeing about 75 percent side-loading and 25 percent OTA. We think once the Comes With Music service is in place later this year, it will make the purchase decision easier, and we believe that can and will really scale the music market up.