Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Music exec regrets going "to war" with consumers

Edgar Bronfman, head of Warner Music seems to be acknowledging that the music industry's traditional business model is dead, and that record companies cannot litigate it back to life.

Speaking at the GSMA Mobile Asia Congress in Macau, Edgar Bronfman told mobile operators that they must not make the same mistake that the music industry made.

"We used to fool ourselves,' he said. "We used to think our content was perfect just exactly as it was. We expected our business would remain blissfully unaffected even as the world of interactivity, constant connection and file sharing was exploding. And of course we were wrong. How were we wrong? By standing still or moving at a glacial pace, we inadvertently went to war with consumers by denying them what they wanted and could otherwise find and as a result of course, consumers won."


Bronfman appears to be experiencing an epiphany when it comes to digital music. From threatening to withdraw from iTunes and suggesting that to drop DRM would be "without logic or merit", he is now heaping praising on Apple and recently opened a DRM-free section on Warner's own Classics and Jazz music store.
I remember watching with astonishment as the RIAA began suing file-sharers in response to P2P downloading. Remember, this was pre-iTunes (it seems like we have always had it, doesn't it?). The record industry took exactly the wrong lesson from the P2P phenomenon. They had been gouging music consumers for years, and were determined to continue earning their profits in exactly the same way.

Steve Jobs got it, and took advantage of the opportunity. With iTunes, a revolution was born. People could purchase the music they wanted at a reasonable price. They were no longer forced to buy entire CDs, marked up by an order of magnitude, containing songs they might or might not want.

DRM was another silly, misguided attempt at controlling something that would not, and should not, be controlled. If I buy it, it's mine. I can do what I want to do with it. Eventually, DRM will go away as people cease to purchase copy-protected music.

It is just amazing to me that it has taken the music industry so long to accept the inevitable.