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Nokia's head of music Michael Bebel talks to the Drum about its plans to become a music discovery platform to drive competitive edge

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By Jessica Davies, News Editor

March 8, 2013 | 4 min read

Nokia is putting music at the heart of its plans to drive differentiation in the fiercely competitive mobile market and is positioning itself as a "music discovery" platform.

The mobile operator this week announced it has teamed up with French music blogger network La Blogotheque to host a series of free gigs to promote emerging UK music talent as part of this strategy.

These Live Lumia Sessions will comprise six sessions and feature acoustic performances from bands and artists chosen by La Blogotheque. The gigs will also be supported by local talent in each city discovered by the Nokia Music team, to help give new bands a platform to kick-start their music careers to a wider audience.

The news echoes comments made by Nokia's head of global music initiatives, Nokia Entertainment, Michael Bebel, who spoke to The Drum about its plans for its music service, which he describes as a "music discovery platform", at Mobile World Congress.

It has been steadily building its music team and service since its inception in November 2011 and now has around 200 people dedicated to running this arm of the mobile operator's business worldwide, with many of them based out of its music headquarters in Bristol.

Bebel believes its music offering for the Lumia is a vital part of its brand differentiation, a factor that is becoming increasingly urgent in the current, fragmented and fiercely competitive landscape.

"There are three stand-out differentiators Nokia has - music, images and maps. The smartphone is about delivering experiences coupled with technology and design - you need all three to be a success," he says.

The service is aimed at casual listeners rather than music fanatics or experts who want to curate their own experiences, according to Babel. "The casual listener tends to be the largest proportion of the population - those who are looking for a respite, a break or moment of delight.

"Research showed us most consumers enjoy radio and we built something off that paradigm and took it a step further into the mobile space while removing the barriers that can prevent people from it by ensuring it is preloaded on the phone and doesn't need to be downloaded," he says.

The Nokia music team create localised catalogues with around 200 playlists curated for each of the 28 markets in which it is present. In total there are around 22 million tracks and 400 feed from labels around the world and Nokia monitors listener behaviour to ensure to help tweak the product.

"We are very data driven. We use behavioural data to improve the service. All users are typically anonymous as they do not sign up for accounts but you can tag them and pull all their data back and observe what they are doing and adjust accordingly," he says.

This includes behaviour around its track-skipping feature, so if a listener repeatedly skips certain tracks Nokia's music team can strip those particular tracks from the service and supply ones more relevant to that user's tastes. "It dynamically sees what you like and we can then build mix lists based on what's relevant to them so we monitor things like play-to-skip ratios.

"When people import music through the app we can also get a sense of them and what they like and we do that by market - build in related artists and things like that," he says.

It will continue to refine its personalisation of the service by focusing on markets and then honing in on specific segments within those markets, according to Bebel. "We can then start profiling people who are attracted to a particular kind of music and over time we will so that on a more and more individual level while continuing with this discovery component which exposes people to music they may have never heard before," adds Bebel.

At Mobile World Congress Nokia unveiled two new Lumia smartphones as well as two budget phones - the Nokia 105 and the 301 for more affordable internet and email access, and camera experiences inspired by Nokia Lumia smartphones - costing £13 and £55 respectively.

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