Warner chief reinforces DRM support at 3GSM

Also calls for involving user experience with music mobiles

A top music executive has reinforced his support for copy-restricted music. The call came from Edgar Bronfman Jr., chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group , during a talk at the 3GSM World Conference in Barcelona. During the speech he spoke about the increased opportunities presented by music-playing mobiles to the record industry, mobile operators and handset manufacturers.

Bronfman's speech reiterates his views in the face of the open letter by Apple boss Steve Jobs on 6 February. In that rare release , Jobs urged the big record companies - including Warner - to open up the copy restrictions on songs sold over the internet.

But Bronfman suggests that even if DRM (Digital Rights Management) was to be opened up, it wouldn't necessarily open the floodgates for online sales. "DRM and interoperability are not the same thing," he said. "We believe very strongly in interoperability. Consumers want it, consumers should have it.

"I think we can all agree and we should all agree that intellectual property deserves some measure of protection."

Bronfman said that a poor user experience was to blame for poor take-up of music-buying services on mobiles. "Though playing and storing music is fast increasing, only 8.5 per cent of users actually use these phones to buy music. Why only 8.5 per cent? I'll tell you why: it's expensive, it's complicated and it's slow.

"As partners in this industry, we need to do everything in our power to change that," implored Bronfman, who cited estimates that by 2010 mobile subscribers will spend more than $32 billion annually to access music through their phones.

He also said that it was up to companies such as Warner music to keep people interested in artists: "Actually, it's amazing that we've generated as much revenue as we have through mobile music, given how cumbersome the consumer experience can be.

"We need to create a constant flow of product and information from artists - not just an album every two years - so consumers can stay connected regularly to their favourite artists, via their favorite carrier.

"Today, instead of producing only CDs and singles, we are simultaneously producing ringtones, SMS-tones, ring-back tones and video ringers. And in addition to a standard music video, we're also creating a 'behind the scenes', a 'making of' and interviews with the artist. In some cases, we've even developed artist-branded mobile games."

Bronfman also had some kind words for Apple's iPhone. "Before it has even hit the market, the iPhone has effectively raised the bar on what customers expect in terms of user-interfaces on their mobile phones, and what mobile phones should be able to do as music players and entertainment devices."

A new Jupiter Research study has also shown that 54 per cent of record company managers think DRM is too restrictive.

Almost two thirds thought that dropping DRM together would increase sales.

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