Verizon gets in the groove with music bus
Verizon may be an extreme example of efforts by telephone companies to reinvent themselves. Its mobile unit Verizon Wireless has set up a mobile music production studio, in the form of a high-tech tour bus. The company has also hired influential hit-maker Timbaland as its first producer-in-residence.
The plan is for Timbaland, better known for his work with singers such as Aliyah or Justin Timberlake than with the phone company, to create a mobile music album by producing one song per month for participating artists and releasing that song exclusively for Verizon Wireless in the form of a full song, ringtones and ringback tones, which callers hear before a call is picked up.
So far Verizon has signed up R&B singer Keri Hilson for the project. Ed Ruth, the director of digital music for Verizon Wireless explained the strategy as he showed off the bus ahead of a Madonna concert, from which Verizon Wireless broadcast four songs live to its mobile phones on Wednesday night.
Ruth said the project was an important marketing tool for the artist, their record label and of course Verizon Wireless, which is looking to make a name in digital music.
“This is not a matter of exchanging big checks,” Ruth told reporters ahead of the show, when asked about the terms of Verizon’s agreements with record labels.
“Music is important to our overall brand,” he said. ”We’re looking to create strong relationships with artists.”
“Artists are frustrated,” said Ruth. As CD sales decline, “there’s frustration the labels aren’t innovating.”
But while these may sound like fighting words Verizon Wireless says it wants to help the record labels rather than hurt them.