Vodafone, Sony to Customize Mobile Music

Vodafone, the world’s biggest-selling cell phone company, has announced a new partnership with electronics giant Sony NetServices to launch Vodafone Radio DJ, a new streaming music service for mobile phones which will enable listeners to rate tracks by keying “like” or “dislike” as they listen. The service will utilize Vodafone’s 3G data network and is expected to launch initially in the UK, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and Portugal, and expand to more than 20 countries by the end of 2006.

Vodafone says customers will be able to access hundreds of thousands of songs and audiobooks via predefined and customer-defined channels, but the key feature in the service will be the capability for customers to “train” the predefined radio channels to their personal preferences by rating tracks “like” or “dislike” as they listen. Pressing “dislike” will move to the next song, and avoid placing similar songs in that user’s queue for all stations. Sony NetServices classifies songs by a number of factors, including beat, harmony, and mood, in addition to traditional categories like artist, genre, and era, so the system can try to avoid tracks with characteristics the subscriber claims to dislike while selecting tracks the user might enjoy.

“This is the beginning of a new era in portable music. This partnershipwith Sony will drive Vodafone’s strategy to become a leading global musicprovider. Vodafone Radio DJ is a revolutionary new way to discover personalmusic, anytime and anywhere, and we anticipate it will have widespreadconsumer appeal amongst our customers,” said Lee Fenton, Director of ConsumerPlatforms at Vodafone.

The efficacy of the system may vary by subscriber: similar services, such as the Music Genome Project, have mixed results, particularly with more-sophisticated listeners whose preferences tend to be more precise than those offered by heuristic music selection systems.

Vodafone Radio DJ will also offer songs for sale; purchasers will receive two versions of tracks, one encoded for mobile use and a larger, high-quality copy for use on PCs. Subscription pricing hasn’t been released, but Vodafone says the service will offer unlimited listening and will carry no extra data services fee for delivering music to phones or PCs.