Warner Doesn't Want You Streaming Their Music for Free Anymore

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Sometimes I think it wouldn't be a terrible idea for major record labels and organizations like the RIAA to appoint a Net-savvy 15-year-old to their board of directors. That way, they'd have someone to tell them whenever one of their decisions was laughable or antiquated or, in this case, possibly questionable/impertinent. The BBC reports that Warner Music Group will no longer be licensing its songs to websites like Last.fm, Pandora and Grooveshark for free streaming. Warner CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. sez:

"The 'get all your music you want for free, and then maybe with a few bells and whistles we can move you to a premium price' strategy is not the kind of approach to business that we will be supporting in the future." It is not clear whether Warner will remove its music from existing services or decline to do deals with new outlets. He said the focus would be on promoting streaming services that require payment, which he said could appeal beyond those who currently pay for downloads in stores such as Apple's iTunes.

Hmm. ... It "could appeal beyond" Apple users. It also could just further encourage Internet users to illegally download your albums AND severely limit the reach your smaller artists have. See, the deal nowadays is that, like a radio station, streaming music sites pay royalties to record labels for songs that are played. And, like a radio station (at least in theory), these sites provide outlets for small-name artists to reach fans. Say, for instance, I created a "Willie Nelson's Similar Artists" station on Last.fm. That might bring up a streaming Phosphorescent song that I otherwise wouldn't have heard, and I might go and purchase that track or, hell, maybe even the whole album. Score one for Phosphorescent, score one for the label. Possible fail for Warner Music Group? Possibly more money for artists?

Now, before you go saying to yourself, "Eh, who needs Warner Bros. and all of its subsidiaries? How many good artists could they possibly have?" keep in mind that Warner and all its subsidiaries make for what is allegedly the third largest family of record labels in the recording industry. Under the entire umbrella of WMG, -- which includes Warner Nashville artists like Faith Hill, Big & Rich, Randy Travis, Jeff Foxworthy and Patton Oswalt -- we're talking about The Flaming Lips, Built to Spill, recent restaurateur Michael Buble, Frank Sinatra, Green Day, Death Cab for Cutie, Devo, Faith No More, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Paul Simon ... the lists really do go on and on.

So WMG's idea, according to CEO Bronfman, is ostensibly only to feature their artists on sites like Spotify, a service to which users must pay monthly fees. That would get WMG a bigger slice of the pie for use of their artists' songs, but the number of folks who use free streaming sites staggeringly dwarfs the number of folks who use sites that require a monthly fee.

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