by Mike Masnick
Thu, Aug 9th 2007 6:21pm
Warner Music Group's chairman Edgar Bronfman is no stranger to failing to see the big picture when it comes to online music. After all, back in the summer of 2000 (when he owned Universal Music), Bronfman was the first music exec to rant and rave about Napster and say he was preparing an army of lawyers to start suing people for downloading music. In retrospect, many now admit that Bronfman's declaration of war on Napster kicked off the recording industry's problems. It was clear then that Bronfman simply did not understand the economics of digital goods, and in the eight intervening years, it appears he hasn't learned very much. While he's dabbled in digital music, the strategies always come back to him trying to control how the music is used, providing less value for music fans. Amusingly, he then complains that downloadable music isn't easy enough. Of course, the only reason that's true is because of the restrictions he insists must be included. In discussing Warner Music's latest earnings, Bronfman complains about the ubiquitous nature of music, and insists that the strategic response is to create additional artificial scarcity. This is exactly the opposite of what he should be doing. All that does is shrink the market, piss off potential customers and create wide open opportunities for competitors to better serve the market. Ubiquity isn't a problem -- it's an opportunity. There are plenty of ways that Bronfman and Warner Music could embrace that ubiquity, expand the market, increase the value and profit handsomely from it. But, instead, Bronfman seems stuck on his failed plan from the summer of 2000, and yet another opportunity will be squandered. Update: Then again, news is coming out that Universal Music will at least experiment with DRM-free music "for a limited time." That's a step in the right direction, just 8 years too late.
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