Warner Music's chief expects digital and mobile music services to revitalize his industry.
The company's chairman and CEO, Edgar Bronfman Jr., has been in the news recently, as he appears Apple's most vociferous critic, at least in terms of price.
He delivered a keynote speech to mobile and entertainment industry executives at the CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment Conference yesterday. He said: "I believe that the immeasurable value of music - as entertainment, as inspiration, as a means of personal connection and social interaction, and as an emotionally and spiritually nurturing force - music deliverable anytime, anywhere - will transform, in ways none of us can foresee, not only our business and your business, but the way life is lived."
His glittering image for the future of music shows the importance with which he regards the content-owners maintaining control over price.
It's all about control
Speaking at a conference in New York last week he urged Apple to adopt a more flexible pricing model, saying: "There's no content in the world that has doesn't have some price flexibility. Not all songs are created equal. Not all albums are created equal."
The remarks come as the major labels and Apple prepare to meet to agree a new digital distribution deal for the market-leading iTunes Music Store service next spring.
But Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently slammed labels seeking higher prices as "greedy", warning that raised prices would drive music shoppers back to piracy.
Bronfman's speech yesterday revealed a vision of a "virtual universe in which all the music ever recorded is available digitally, in any possible combination, almost anywhere, and all at the touch of a couple of buttons."
Format health drives music sales higher
Part of the rationale among some industry watchers for higher music prices is a predicted doomsayer's view that album sales are set to decline.
This isn't so, said the Warner Music chief: "I take a distinctly contrary view. The unbundling of the album will drive consumption, not impede it", he said, adding that the ever-increading number of digital distribution platforms will "drive significant growth for music and music-based content," he said during his speech, which is available from Warner Music (PDF).
He repeated earlier remarks which said that digital music now accounts for 6 per cent of his company's revenues, up from nothing just two years ago.
With Apple accounting for 80 per cent of music download sales, then clearly Steve Jobs' music vision now accounts for almost 5 per cent of Warner's sales. And that figure keeps rising as iPods keep selling.
At least, Bronfman certainly thinks so: "Digital growth will continue", he said.
Looking forward, he added: "Music purchase doesn't have to be just on the handset or just the PC. In fact, you will soon see our agreements with wireless carriers providing for simultaneous over-the-air and direct-to-PC downloads."
Music's coming home, it's coming home...
Warner's leader isn't railing against the shock of the new, in fact he says he welcomes it: "The music industry has been at its healthiest when multiple formats exist in the marketplace. In the 80's and 90's, when LPs, CDs and cassettes were all sold side-by-side, the consumer experience was at its most robust and consumer spending on music was at its peak. Later, the compact disc became the industry's sole configuration and suffered from the near-fatal double blow of physical and digital piracy."
He stressed that his vision could be improved by: "A standard digital rights management (DRM), perhaps even the adoption of an open one."
Speaking of mobile music services, he said: "Add all of the formats and products available in the Internet space, throw in traditional retail - which is not going away - and the stage is set for the revitalization of our industry."