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Making Mobile Music Work: SK Telecom

South Korea's largest cellular company, SK Telecom, has provided a mobile music portal service called �MelOn� since the end of 2004. MelOn is the first integrated, wired and wireless, music service that allows users to enjoy music virtually anytime, anywhere using a portable MP3 player, a PC, or a mobile phone. The main MelOn interface is a music download and streaming Internet portal, www.melon.co.kr. The service is akin to a rental service, with users �renting� tracks on a monthly basis for use on various terminals. MelOn users pay a 5000 won (US$4.50) monthly subscription to stream music to a PC or download tracks to their phone as long as their subscription is current. Digital rights management (DRM) wrappers on the music guarantee a subscriber is current, and tracks are erased from the end-user�s library at the end of the subscription period. To download tracks onto the handset, users pay for airtime at regular call rates, regardless of the size of the track. The key to the model is its ubiquitousness, downloads are possible using wireline and wireless platforms, and a relatively affordable monthly subscription fee. SK Telecom acquires the rights from the record companies for music to use as ringtones, ringbacks and full version downloads. Music companies are not necessarily enamored by the scheme, but SK Telekom has generally used its market heft to have its way. To further strengthen its position, SK Telekom acquired Korea�s YBM Seoul Records, reportedly Korea�s largest record company.

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