THE BILLBOARD Q&A: ANSSI VANJOKI

HIGHLIGHT: The mind behind the mobile phone manufacturer’s Internet moves spells out Nokia’s latestmusic initiative, and how the U.S. and record labels fit into its plans. Anssi Vanjoki, executive VP/GM of multimedia at Nokia, is the visionary force behind the company’s efforts to converge mobile phones with the Internet, including Nokia’s N series of multimedia smart phones… This week, Nokia unveiled a new initiative called Comes With Music. The program offers anyone buying select Nokia phones a full year’s worth of free music as a sort of subsidized subscription plan. The service, which won’t be publicly available until sometime in the first half of next year, works like this: Those buying certain Nokia phones will be able to download as many songs as they like, at no additional charge, for a year. The cost of the music is built into the device, and Nokia will pay record labels the appropriate licensing fees. Users will then be able to keep all the music they’ve downloaded even after the year is up. There are restrictions. Like other subscription tracks, any music downloaded via the service can’t be burned onto a CD unless the user buys the track à la carte (which the user will have the opportunity to do). The tracks will also contain digital rights management technology that will limit their compatibility with other devices.  Universal Music Group is the first label to sign on to the program, and Nokia says it is in discussions with others as well. Nokia’s effort closely resembles the Total Music strategy UMG has quietly been promoting in recent months, which seeks to provide various devices with similar unlimitedmusic; the cost of around a year’s worth of music licensing is included in the price of the device. The Comes With Music news comes on the heels of a much broader Nokia effort to expand its influence beyond simply making phones to operating a suite of Internet services focused on entertainment. Its new Ovi service includes, among other things, a music service that will let users subscribing to participating operators buy and download full songs. It also includes games, video and social networking services. Other music efforts include a recommendation and discovery service overseen by David Bowie and a line of multimedia and music phones spearheaded by the N95. The company bought digital music service provider Loudeye last year for $60 million. The acquisition remains at the core of every music-related service Nokia has, including Comes With Music. But Nokia’s stab at mobile social networking — MOSH — has angered some labels. Warner Music Group (WMG), for instance, has refused to license its catalog to the Ovi music store because the MOSH service allows users to share copyrighted content.Vanjoki took a few moments at the Nokia World conference — where the Comes With Music service was announced — to tell Billboard how music in general fits into Nokia’s broader digital entertainment future.What are you trying to accomplish with the Comes With Music initiative?Comes With Music is part of a bigger plan that Nokia has. For a number of years, Nokia has developed the software know-how to become an Internet company. Digital and the Internet has shaped many industries that have been based on a more analog world. Music is just one. So new business models are necessary for the industry to take a different turn and prosper in the digital age.When we look at how people are turning their mobile phones into small computers, these phones are becoming the access point for how people are going to live their digital lives. This kind of functionality follows people everywhere. Music is everywhere and is very important to almost everybody. So we wanted to offer an alternative to getting it that is legal, that is making music consumption normal and easy to use, and at the same time obey the business rules that exist.Is the price of the year’s subscription included in the cost of the device, and do you pay the labels from that?We’re not giving any of the details of the setup behind Comes With Music between us and the music labels. The only thing we’re saying is that both ourselves and Universal, and the other music companies who join in, will find this a profitable venture for all parties.What about users?Users will not have to pay anything extra. It’s embedded in the total price in the product. Can they transfer Comes With Music files to a computer?Yes, all themusic that you get you can download directly to your mobile [phone] or your PC — and the music is residing on either or both. We also keep a vault for you where all the music that you have purchased is kept for the record should you lose any of it. We’ll hold this vault for you even after your [subscription] comes to an end. Can I play Comes With Music tracks on other portable devices?Yes. You have rights to transport those songs to five additional devices.And I can keep the music even after the year is up even if I don’t buy a new phone?It doesn’t matter. The music you get is yours to keep for as long as you want, regardless of what device you own.How does it work with the Ovi à la carte music service?From a functional standpoint, the Comes With Music service is built on the platform of our Ovi music service. When you get the device that comes with music, the way you download themusic you want to the device is done through the Ovi music store. Should the music you want not be available from the labels that are part of Comes With Music, you can still buy any music under the normal business conditions, as in single downloads.Your Ovi music service and the Comes With Musicplan seems limited to the European market. Why not a stronger music presence in the United States?Our Ovi music store we started in the U.K. We’re rolling it out to major European and Asian markets next. We have not announced our plans for North and South America yet, but it will be there as well. The same will go for Comes With Music. We have not given any territorial information at this time. It’ll be a surprise.But is there anything that keeps you from having a stronger U.S. presence?No, there is nothing that keeps us from it. The very simple reason is the very low population of devices that Nokia has in the U.S. market at the moment. We are in the process of improving our distribution methods in the U.S.WMG is one label voicing concern about MOSH and the ability for users to share content, which led to it not licensing music for the Ovi service. How do you intend to alleviate those concerns?We are in very constructive and very warm-spirited discussions with all the labels, including Warner.

‘IDOLS’ BATTLE GROWS SHRILL

HIGHLIGHT: Lawyers for the TV hit and a Tampa software firm take their show to court. One contest features crooners ages 16 to 28 in a glitzy battle for fame and record contracts. Its season finale last month drew 31-million TV viewers… The other contest features Hillsborough County school kids singing songs like On Top of Old Smoky for college scholarship money. Its March finale at Busch Gardens drew dozens of parents and friends.American Idol. Reading Idols. Nobody is likely to confuse the two. But that hasn’t stopped lawyers for the Fox TV megahit and Tampa-based Electronic Learning Products Inc. from trading legal salvos over Reading Idols and whether it infringes on the American Idol brand.Electronic Learning upped the tempo last week when it filed a preemptive lawsuit in Tampa federal court.Though neither party would comment on the dispute, the seeds of war apparently were planted in February. That’s when Electronic Learning – the fledgling software company behind Tune in toReading, an innovative, karaoke-style program that helps low-achieving students improve their reading skills – filed an application to trademark the “Reading Idols” name. The firm recently had begun sponsoring contests under that name as a reward for area students whose schools used the software.FremantleMedia North America Inc., the Burbank, Calif., entertainment giant that trademarked the phrase “American Idol” in 2003, saw the filing as a threat. In a June 6 letter, it gave Electronic Learning until June 14 to drop the Reading Idols name and trademark bid, or face litigation. Its argument: that the public naturally, and incorrectly, would assume that American Idol sponsored or was otherwise connected to Reading Idols.Indeed, legitimate licensees pay a hefty bounty to tapAmerican Idol’s brand magic. Last year, for example, Kraft Foods introduced an Idol-like singing contest centered on its classic Oscar Mayer hot dog jingles. American Idol stars participated in a kick-off ceremony, the grand prize was a trip to the American Idol finale show, and American Idol’s logo appeared on millions of hot dog packages.But instead of waving a white flag last week, Electronic Learning filed suit, asking a federal judge to make FremantleMedia retreat.It’s not the first time FremantleMedia tried to enforce the American Idol trademark. Last year, for example, it sued Highend Holdings LLC, a company out of St. Petersburg and Odessa, for sponsoring exotic-dancer contests under the name America‘s Naked Idol and attempting to trademark it.Was American Idol the inspiration for Reading Idols? Electronic Learning’s lawsuit doesn’t say. But a company spokeswoman may have given the secret away in a recent interview with TampaBaysMediaTalk.com. After the students performed at Busch Gardens in March, she said, audience members were invited to vote for their favorite performer at ReadingIdols.com. “Similar,” she said, “to some television shows that you might watch.”Scott Barancik can be reached at barancik@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8751.FAST FACTSReading Idols’ roots– In 1994, Electronic Learning Products started selling SingingCoach, which teaches singers to sing on pitch and in rhythm.– A mother of a student said her child’s reading comprehension improved because of the product.– Since the beginning of this school year, Tune in toReading software has been installed in more than 60 classrooms throughout Florida. The software assesses students’ reading levels, then assigns them songs.– As a reward for students whose schools use the software, Electronic Learning sponsors contests under the Reading Idols name. Hillsborough students recently competed in the contest, with college scholarships as prizes.