Line’s decision to shutter MixRadio on Tuesday drew some media attention — the joke being that as a functioning music service it failed for nearly a decade to get people to care.
Line, the maker of a messaging app, couched the reasons for the closure in PR-speak, such as “future growth would be difficult to ensure,” but seems pretty clear the streaming-music service wasn’t making money.
Line obtained MixRadio from Microsoft only 14 months ago. Microsoft took control of the business after acquiring Nokia’s mobile-phone business less than two years before that. For a while, Microsoft’s smartphones were the only place where the music service was available. Besides being well travelled, MixRadio was known during its existence by many different names, including Nokia MixRadio, Nokia Music, and Comes with Music.
The most interesting thing about the service is that it started out as an experiment. Nokia partnered with the top music labels to offer phones that included a free-music subscription. Buyers of the Comes-with-Music edition phones could acquire between 12 and 24 months of unlimited free listening. The songs also happened to come locked in digital-rights-management software. This prevented the tunes from being burned to a CD or transferred to an iPod or non-Nokia device.
These were the days when Apple’s iTunes and MP3 sales dominated, and the subscription-music age was still on the horizon. That may be why Comes with Music flopped.
To the credit of Nokia and the big labels, Comes with Music might have been a little ahead of its time. Music subscriptions are the way to listen nowadays. And anyway, what music service of any kind is generating significant profits? Expect more music companies to go the way of MixRadio. As a business, music is a landfill.