Nokia Stumbled, But Mobile Music Services Are Still Gaining Ground

Nokia (NYSE: NOK) may have shuttered its unlimited music service in all but six of the 33 markets where it was operational, with low subscriber traction as one of the main reasons for the closure. But judging by the number of mobile music services coming out this week — from the label Sony (NYSE: SNE), the operator Cricket, and the startup mSpot — there’s still a lot of faith in making a business out of mobile music, if you pick your moments carefully.

This week saw three different music launches, all approaching mobile music opportunity from different angles:

Cricket/Muve: If one of Nokia’s problems was a lack of operator support for its service, Cricket will now have a chance to prove whether having the carrier tie-in will make the difference. Today it launches Muve, an unlimited music service, which it is selling as a bundle with the Samsung Suede feature phone.

This is the first unlimited music service being sold by a U.S. wireless operator, but it’s by no means the first unlimited music service worldwide. In addition to the Nokia Music Unlimited product, companies like Omnifone have partnered with the likes of both Vodafone (NYSE: VOD) and Sony to roll out comparable offerings. Cricket developed Muve with a partner but has not revealed that partner’s name. Muve will feature tracks from all four major record labels.

On first glance the offer looks compelling price-wise: For $55 a month, the user gets unlimited music, calls, text and internet and many other services. The phone itself, which runs on Samsung’s OS, is retailing for $199.

Cricket is launching the product after a slight delay; it was meant to go live during CES in Las Vegas. After the service’s debut in Las Vegas today, Cricket says the plan is to roll Muve out to Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, MD; Charlotte, NC; Chicago, IL; Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville, TN; Phoenix and Tucson, AZ; San Diego, CA; Milwaukee and Madison, WI and Wichita, KS in February; and additional Cricket markets this spring.

Sony Music/Mobile Roadie: Some music artists have already proven the case for apps, using them to market themselves and their work to existing fans. Now the growing involvement of record labels will make that business model go even more mainstream.

Sony Music has signed a deal with Mobile Roadie to offer the latter’s “DIY” app platform to its stable of artists. First up will be David Archuleta, Marc Anthony, Camila and Pink, and eight others.

The apps will be used to send out all things related to those artists: eg, news, tour dates and ticket info, music and videos; and paid content such as karaoke tracks and games. Mobile Roadie had already built up a reputation developing musicians’ apps so it’s an obvious partner for the venture.

mSpot: Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) has yet to launch a cloud-enabled music service off the back of iTunes, and with the dominant digital music player out of the picture, it gives an opening to the many startups working in the area. One of them, mSpot, opened its doors for business today in Europe.

mSpot lets users upload their digital music collection — up to 2GB of music for the free service — to a “digital locker.” Users can then access it via an app, currently available for Android and iOS-based mobile devices, or a PC.