Nokia Alters Its Mobile Music Strategy

Nokia is ditching its struggling Comes With Music brand and folding the service into its broader Ovi entertainment offering under the Ovi Music Unlimited banner.

Comes With Music was designed to compete with Apple’s iTunes. The basic idea was that Nokia multimedia phones would come bundled with a year’s worth of free music when consumers added the price of a subscription to the sale of the handsets. Users could then simply download all the tunes they wished and keep the music after the subscriptions ended, or else re-up for another year.

However, the service struggled mightily with marketing and implementation, and was never launched in the U.S. due to conflicts with mobile operators here unwilling to subsidize a competing music offering.

Here’s an excerpt of the text from an e-mail sent to existing Comes With Music users: “We are excited to tell you that Comes With Music will soon be part of Ovi. Along with the new name and sleek new look that is easier than ever to use, with Ovi Music Unlimited … you’ll still have access to millions of free tracks, plus easier ways to browse, search and download music.”

It’s hard not to see this as a failure for the much-hyped Nokia music effort. It puts an end to a multimillion-dollar marketing and branding campaign that supported the original Comes With Music brand. Ditching the old name reflects badly on the service even though it’s got a new moniker. And it’s unclear, even doubtful, that the rebranding will have any immediate impact, since the Ovi brand is even more confusing and ill-defined than Comes With Music.

Also, the e-mail hints at changes coming to the service. These could take the form of a simple aesthetic retooling or include more comprehensive adjustment of the navigation, user interface or even the business model. It’s unclear if users will jump to sign up for a service that could soon see such fundamental changes in how it operates.

Nokia officials could not be immediately reached for comment.