Warner’s Middlebronfman: I wish we’d gotten more music pricing flexibility out of Steve Jobs

“Today is a big day for Edgar Bronfman Jr. — his last as chairman of Warner Music Group,” John Paczkowski reports for AllThingsD.

“A fixture in the music industry since the mid-1990s, Bronfman led WMG during a period of profound tumult, navigating a rough transition from CD to the digital download, and grappling with a generation of younger consumers who don’t always want pay for digital music,” Paczkowski reports. “Onstage at D: Dive Into Media this afternoon, Bronfman reflected on the evolution of the music industry, Apple, and the fate of EMI, which is currently being pursued by Universal Music.”

Apple from day one believed in music and content. That was the good news. The bad news is that they decided all songs where created equal, and I fought Steve on that. Ultimately, Apple got the better part of that deal. Ultimately, I wish we’d gotten more pricing flexibility. – Edgar Bronfman Jr.

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Eliminated.

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    1. not all songs are created equal. And not all songs will sell equally.

      Sorry but I don’t want to buy a song for 2/3 of the price because it’s 2/3 as good. That just cheapens an artist’s effort.

      1. I don’t follow you. If songs are not priced all the same, you WILL undoubtably end up finding some artist’s record priced at 2/3 the price of another record. Is that record cheapened or other one simply over-valued?

  1. Well, it benefited everyone, just WMG is not able to muck up the system with all sorts of schemes. That makes WMG regret allowing Steve to make it simple sand transparent. Now it is more difficult to con the customer-Sad.


  2. * A dollar in the 1960’s purchased 30 postage stamps.
    Today a dollar purchases 2 1/2 stamps.
    * Coke cost 5 cents a bottle in the early sixties or late fifties.
    * Gas cost 34 cents a gallon. I think it is higher now.

    I’d say music is a much bigger bargain today with downloads and no physical product than 45rpm records in the sixties (which each offered at least two songs). I do think Apple needs to start offering Apple Lossless versions.

    1. I was paid $2.50 an hours working for a major manufacturing company in the ’60s. New graduate engineers started at $8,000 per year.

      That said, today I sometimes help friends foreclose on abandoned storage units. We routinely find hundreds of old vinyl recordings, weighing many pounds. They represent substantial investments in their day. I look at them (hell, I have to lift them) and reflect that I have space on my iPhone for more music than the entire heap represents for less actual cost.

  3. Yes, Bronfman, some recordings *are* worth more than others. But when you have screwed the artists and the public for so long, lining the pockets of the exalted few who ‘own’ the business, don’t expect anything but a derisive dismissal for your last day. And the party celebrating your retirement? You’re pointedly not invited.

  4. More popular songs will make more money because they sell more copies. Duh.

    I wonder how much money that Bronfman character has cost Warner’s shareholders in lost opportunity?


  5. Had Edgar Bronfman Jr. got his way and priced the music as high as he wanted, the illegal music sharing business would have continued and iTunes would have not succeeded thus killing all big name recording houses.

    Talk about a lack of insight.

  6. He’s right, all songs are not created equal. That’s why when you sell them for $.99 each some sell a couple thousand times and some sell millions of times.

    The price per unit doesn’t set them apart, the pace at which they sell does. This guy was a CEO?

    1. Also, you’re missing the real reason they wanted pricing flexibility: So they could control the signals on which music was “good.”
      Imagine going to the movie theater and it lists three current movies. Two are priced at $10/ticket, and one is priced at $6/ticket. Almost no one is going to say “Woohoo! Only $6! I choose THAT movie!” No. Instead, moviegoers will take the discount as a sign that the movie sucks, and they should just watch one of the other two. So, if the record company can raise or lower the prices of songs by certain bands, they can control who gets screwed by the market (not based on actual quality, but the perceived quality), and thus is locked into debt to the label.

      Get it?

      When you see a record exec moaning about flexibility, remember that they mean how well they can make artists bend over.

  7. He still doesn’t get it. Of course, not all music is equal So GOOD MUSIC GETS MORE DOWNLOADS, MORON! Sheesh!

    With the restrictions of physical distribution eliminated, quality (or rather appeal) will translate into higher revenue all by itself. A higher pricing point may easily quench download numbers preventing a music to reach the top of the charts, thus further lowering the perceived appeal and the revenue.

  8. Glad he’s going bye, bye! Stuck in the ways of old business. Always wanting more for himself, didn’t give a damn about anyone else, artists, fans you name it. Hopefully they didn’t hire a replacement with his old business sense because it doesn’t work anymore. Thank you Steve Jobs for giving the artists and the consumer a little break.

    1. ” Always wanting more for himself, didn’t give a damn about anyone else, artists, fans you name it.”

      All Edgar cared about was supporting his coke habit…

      Everything else was secondary.

  9. Still doesn’t get it. Flat pricing was the key to iTunes succes against illegal downloads. Because it’s brainlessly easy to make the buying decision. If a hit song costs 3 times more, kids simply steal it. And in that case I wouldn’t even blame them because asking so much more for something that’s already selling well is just stupendously greedy. He’s still whining about a guy who saved his industry not to talk about his own ass. Unbelivebally short-sighted moron.

  10. Let us not forget that Apple eventually partially caved on variable pricing for music tracks – and the music business can now pick different price levels for different tracks. On the UK store new releases are often 99p, largely replacing the former 79p price level, and you’ll also see tracks priced at 59p too.

    Most of the folks that are managing putting out music are in their 30s. They’ve either used Napster and Bittorrent and pirated loads of music or their kids have. They’re not fools, and they understand all this stuff much better than the fat-cats and lawyers sitting in their ivory towers.

    There’s a significant number of people inside the music business, including Warner, that still aren’t happy with this and want more control of pricing. Whilst some would like to be able to charge even more, they’re a minority, and most recognise that going too much higher will cost them lots of sales, which in turn will cost them chart position costing them even more sales. Then there’s the folks who deal with catalog (old music) – they would like to be able to set prices significantly lower – I’ve heard some talk about pricing as low as 9p or even 9c per track.

    It’s foolish to think that variable pricing is only about charging more.

    1. That’s what I hate about the whole variable pricing scheme. It’s all about charging more. If you look at songs that are 20-30 years old and have earned their money 10 times over, are they priced at 69 cents? 99 cents? No, they are probably at $1.29 (highest) because they were hits and the record companies are still trying to bleed as much as they can from them, while never giving a penny back to the artist. I have a lot of old vinyl and cassettes that I try to replace with digital copies for convenience, but even though they are well past their dollar earning prime (and have earned millions for the record company already), they are no cheaper than the any new song released today.

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