The number of music-capable phones sold worldwide is projected to grow by 75% in the next four years, from 540 million shipped last year to 940 million in 2011, according to research firm MultiMedia Intelligence. This is the thesis that music companies have been clinging to when they try to imagine a world where they can sell digital music without having to go through Apple (AAPL).
The challenge: Getting people to actually use their music-capable phones as music players. Less than 7% of U.S. mobile subscribers listen to music on their phones, according to research firm M:Metrics. That number is higher in Europe, where the iPod’s influence isn’t as strong: More than 21% of Spanish mobile subs listen to music on their phones, and nearly 20% of U.K. mobile subs.