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“We remain committed to you [retailers]. We are here to offer you hope… You are not horse and buggy manufactures or typewriter salesmen."
—-Amanda Marks, UMG
UMG & DRM: WHO'S NEXT?
Will UMG Follow EMI’s Lead? SBMG, WMG Draw a Line in the Sand
The debate on DRM-free digital music gathered some steam during NARM’s panel this morning, which featured the heads of technology at the Big Four.

UMG’s Amanda Marks accused several technology companies (“and you know who you are”) of dragging their feet in the rights management debate and that her company was not ruling out going DRM-free as they continue to test it in the marketplace. Still, sources say it won’t happen before the summer, if at all, since initial data hasn’t shown it has a whole lot of effect on the marketplace.

She admitted the record business is in transition, but offered hope to retailers: “We remain committed to you. We are here to offer you hope… You are not horse and buggy manufactures or typewriter salesmen." She said that the gap between the 99 cent single and the $9.99 album is "simply too large" and that the industry must offer a mid-priced "snack."

Sony BMG and WMG remain adamant about maintaining DRM. Sony BMG's Thomas Hesse said that music is in the eye of the storm and that illegal usage is dominating, noting that the business lost $400 million in physical sales last year while only gaining $200 million digitally and proposed that we needed multiple products with multiple prices.

WMG's Michael Nash was the most vocal opponent of DRM, saying that not only was it necessary but that it can help drive new business and a link to important product innovation. 

EMI's Barney Wragg followed by saying that retailers are currently giving the consumer "horrible multi-device usage," and working between different online sellers has also been a bad experience.

He re-stated EMI's recent position that getting rid of DRM crated an open market for all retailer.

"Removing DRM levels the playing field and improves the multiple device experience."

During the Q&A, Hesse said: "We don't want the world to become a college dorm." Marks expressed concern about the "timeline of achieving successful interoperability." And Wragg once again concluded “The industry has backed itself into a corner that is unworkable." Nash did not take part in the forum, reportedly because WMG was in a quiet period preceding a financial statement.

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