Nokia Stepping Down B2B Music Stores; Hits Tiscali, MSN, Virgin

Nokia (NYSE: NOK) is ending some of its OD2 white-label digital music retail activities from April 23. The company is closing B2B contracts it got when it acquired the digital distributor in 2006, taking out the download stores it powers for Tiscali, MSN UK, Virgin and others in the process.

— Tiscali sent customers an email last week informing of the change, and told paidContent:UK in a statement: “OD2 has regrettably decided to withdraw the Tiscali Music Download service. Customers have been contacted and given 30 days notice to use up their credit and back up the music they have already bought. Tiscali is actively looking for a high quality music service to replace it, so watch this space.”

MSN has “failed to renew its agreement” with OD2 for MSN Music downloads, NMA reported, quoting a spokesperson as saying “our new service will be provided by a Microsoft-owned platform”. But a Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) spokesperson told paidContent:UK he had no idea where that comment came from and we understand it’s more a case of Nokia telling partners it will shut the stores.

— Nokia seems to disagree, however. A spokesperson told paidContent:UK: “We are not closing OD2. What we’re doing is ramping down the MSN Music stores in Europe as per Microsoft’s request as they are launching new stores in the region.” NMA’s story says Microsoft will relaunch its music downloads in five European countries.

— OD2 also powers downloads for Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED), which has told its customers the music store will cease from April 29. Virgin is known to be planning its own, much more innovative subscription music offering, potentially around legal P2P.

OD2’s service hasn’t kept apace. Still Internet Explorer-only, it merely gives white-label clients a URL to which to point consumers and is being overtaken by platforms like 7Digital, with its API for white-label customers, and consumer outlets like Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) MP3. Nokia, of course, is busy focusing on music consumers, rather than white-label clients, through its Nokia Music Store and Comes With Music offerings.

Co-founded by Peter Gabriel in 1999, OD2 was bought by Loudeye in 2004 for $40 million, before Nokia bought Loudeye itself in 2006 for $60 million. Microsoft shut down its US MSN Music downloads in August 2008 but has continued in the UK.