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Universal Music’s Morris, Dupri speak out on iTunes

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By Charles Starrett

Contributing Editor
Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2007
News Categories: Digital Media

Recently, two executives from Universal Music Group — CEO Doug Morris, and Island Urban Records (which is owned by UMG) president Jermaine Dupri — have spoken out against Apple, Steve Jobs, and the iTunes ecosystem. Morris, in an interview with Wired, and Dupri, in a blog posting on The Huffington Post.

Morris, who once called MP3 players “repositories for stolen music,” responded to the suggestion that the labels allowed Apple CEO Steve Jobs to create “in effect an Apple Walkman that played only Apple cassettes,” by saying, “We were just grateful that someone was selling online. The problem is, he became a gatekeeper. We make a lot of money from him, and suddenly you’re wearing golden handcuffs. We would hate to give up that income.” This past summer, UMG decided not to renew its long-term iTunes contract, instead offering its catalog on a month-to-month basis, and then announced that it would sell DRM-free tracks through online stores other than iTunes, part of an effort by Morris to lessen Apple’s dominance in the market. Morris is currently working on his “Total Music” initiative, which seeks to join the major labels and other hardware companies to create a new line of devices that offer unlimited music for the life of the device, by adding the cost of the service to the price of the player. Unfortunately, the service will almost certainly require DRM, which may lead to even more illegal music downloads. “Locking things up is actually good for piracy,” says David Pakman, CEO of eMusic.

Dupri, meanwhile, argues that Apple should allow artists to decide whether to sell their album as a whole, or to allow individual songs to be purchased as singles. Dupri suggests that Apple needs the record labels more than they need Apple, stating, “If anything, WE made iTunes… So if we as artists, producers and label executives stand up, those guys at Apple can either cooperate, or have nothing for people to buy and download on their iPods.” He goes on, saying, “...Universal sells one out of every three records. All it’ll take is for Warner Music to say, ‘You know what, I’m with you,’ for us to shut ‘em down. No more iPods! They won’t have nothin’ to play on their players! We can take back the power if we’re willing to sacrifice some sales to make our point.”

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Comments

1

This article in wired just made me want to beat my head on the wall.  They are forgetting that these other players are usually poor and that I mostly put music off CDs on my ipod/iphone.  The two ironic things are that the Universal CEO says he just wants to find good music (so stop d*cking with the medium) and that maybe we are going to a point where artists do not need labels (only producers and engineers) and could sell direct via itunes or something similar.

Posted by Jim E on November 28, 2007 at 8:38 AM (PDT)

2

Yes, yes! That’s it! Take back the corporate power. Shut down iTunes. Slay the evil iPod. Everyone will just love you. They’ll sing your hosannas and buy your product however you wish to sell it.
I, for one, miss the days when I would get a whole selection of music that I didn’t care for when I wanted to buy one song for the low, low price of twelve bucks.
We’re with you boys! Take down Apple and make them your beotch. I can’t wait to see the amazing open source devices you create to play your media on!
/sarcasm

Posted by Miranda Kali on November 28, 2007 at 8:47 AM (PDT)

3

I agree with Jim, this article does make you go WTF? 

“All it’ll take is for Warner Music to say, ‘You know what, I’m with you,’ for us to shut ‘em down. No more iPods! They won’t have nothin’ to play on their players!”

I have had 2 iPods and now an iPhone and most all of my music is from ripped CDs.  Sure I buy a few songs or albums from iTunes, but if the music was not there, I’d just buy the CD, rip it once, and put it on a shelf to collect dust (or lend it to a friend…try to prevent me from doing that kind of piracy!) But before I ever go buy a full CD somewhere, I’ll usually listen to the clips on iTunes Store, so if it wasn’t there, I might not even think to go buy it.  so actually them not being on iTunes just decreases the chances i’d even go out and buy their CD anyway. Irregardless, I’ll be using my iPod and iTunes to catalog and sample my music preferences.

I bet the iPod market will slow down, but no one is going to replace them in market share.  I have yet to ever meet a person who owns a Zune and for that matter have not even seen a “working one” on display at any store yet this shopping season to even make me want to consider it.

Why can’t we all jsut get along!

Posted by Carl on November 28, 2007 at 8:48 AM (PDT)

4

“No more iPods! They won’t have nothin’ to play on their players! We can take back the power if we’re willing to sacrifice some sales to make our point.”

So, Mr. Dupri, your point is to screw the consumer.  Nice one.

Remember this, Mr. Dupri, people will always find a way to get stuff on their digital media players…and probably in ways that will make you absolutely $0.00.

Posted by The Raven on November 28, 2007 at 8:48 AM (PDT)

5

This is no longer about the rights and wrongs of DRM or the appropriate way to sell music digitally.

The executives at Universal have shown their true colours as well as their lack of insight to how future music sales will develop.

The statements by both Morris and Dupri show that this is nothing more than an attempt to bash the very company which popularised MP3 players. Sure, things could be better at iTunes, but this all stems back to Steve Jobs’ statement about not having DRM. Universal want to milk as much money as they can from their artists’ work.

This strategy is about destroying Apple not providing the consumer with the best and most fair deal.

I agree with David Pakman that Universal will end up creating the situation they want to avoid, by not only alienating potential music buyers, but also the considerable chunk of the MP3 player market belonging to iPod users.

Posted by Roger on November 28, 2007 at 8:53 AM (PDT)

6

This is nothing but sour grapes, I laugh, WE made ITunes…I looked, NONE of the heavy metal artists I listen to are with Universal label.  Labels like Universal are nothing but greedy, why doesn’t he talk about the fact that HE made $$$ but the artist made $2 a CD. The bigger the record company, the more crap that comes from them. I for one, will now look at anything I buy, and if its Universal I will not buy it. Even on ITunes.

Posted by hpg on November 28, 2007 at 8:54 AM (PDT)

7

Cry me a river. iPods were selling even before the iTMS existed. People won’t stop buying iPods if the iTMS suddenly stops selling music. People already have large libraries of music. They aren’t just going to throw their iPods and their collections away. They will keep listening to the music they have and buy new iPods over time because they like the experience. People will however stop buying legal music through iTunes if they aren’t presented with that option anymore. Is that the end of the world for Apple? Nope. Not even close. But it will be one less revenue stream for the music biz.

Posted by Toby on November 28, 2007 at 9:02 AM (PDT)

8

Doug Morris, in every article I read, comes off as the most spiteful and arrogant human ever spawned on this sphere. He seems to think that record labels had a wondrously pristine and ethical history of production and distribution until Apple came along and irreparably soiled things.

Why, Doug, do you think that so many artists have had nasty disputes with their labels in the past? The relationship between artist and label is supposed to be mutually symbiotic, but in so many cases, the label was the parasite and the musician was the host. A record label will fail without a roster of musicians, but a musician may not necessarily fail without a record label.

These guys are ruthless and aggressive pimps and, as Apple and others have come along and tried (not always successfully, sure, but usually pretty well) to make things more consumer-friendly, they’ve done everything they can to throw up roadblocks. It’s appalling, but because it was the accepted M.O. for so long, the labels got away with it. Apple revolutionized the way the consumer receives, stores, manages, and listens to media…and they become the bad guy by default.

I’m not an Apple apologist or fanboy. They’ve had some failures in this regard, too, and those are not being overlooked. But guys like Morris and Dupri are endorsing vengeance on the innocent consumer, which makes them far more reprehensible than Steve Jobs on balance.

Posted by Flippy Hambone on November 28, 2007 at 9:04 AM (PDT)

9

A the greed shines on.

Funny how the iPod revolutioned how people listen to music.  Hasn’t revolutionized how people “buy” music as much, but it’s sure made the artists realize with the new digital world, many of them don’t need the record companies anymore.

I bet big artists not renewing their contracts and selling music through the medium of THEIR choice is what’s getting these big execs mad.

Good.  Hopefully soon we can all just go to our favorite artists website and download tunes or order cd’s right from them and cut out the big record companies who have starved us consumers for too long.

Apple+iPod+iTunes injected a shot of adrenaline into the music industry, like it or not.  Too late, it’s here to stay in the consumers minds.

Posted by Peterphan on November 28, 2007 at 9:10 AM (PDT)

10

Any time one of these guys does an interview they show just how out of touch they are.  Even if their wild fantasy comes true and they killed the iTunes store, iPods would still rule the market.  Most people get a small percentage of their music from iTunes.  The bigger problem is that “unlimited music for the life of the device” really just means until Universal decides they don’t want to give you free music anymore.  Oh and talk about being locked into one player.  What happens to your music if you decide you want a different digital music player?  Who wants to rent music?

Posted by Cory on November 28, 2007 at 9:22 AM (PDT)

11

Oh yeah, Morris and Dupri. I see your point. It’s MY fault. I’M to blame. I’m looking foward to the time when record labels disappear and I can get all the music I used to get in record stores at places like . . . I don’t know . . . iTunes.

Posted by urbanslaughter on November 28, 2007 at 9:24 AM (PDT)

12

Both sides have their business needs. While I agree that Apple should let the labels have more control (not total control) over how the music is sold, as it is their content, perhaps Apple is sticking to their guns in an attempt to further their apparent agenda to get rid of DRM.

The labels are clearly so out of touch, it’s not funny. They want to force us to buy full albums, like CDs. How quickly they forgot the time when people bought 45s (aka, singles). We got 2 songs per purchase. If I recall correctly, record stores had rows of these.

It is truly funny that they think the iPod will fall simply because there’s no content from iTunes. These days, people buy iPods because 1) they are chic, 2) they have a massive third party accessory ecosystem, 3) they are typical Apple hardware…well built, and 4) because it’s easy to browse and buy on iTunes. And that list is probably more or less in that order.

If iTunes fell, iPods would still sell like hotcakes and they would all be filled with wonderful music. And, music piracy would spike to all time record high. It’s a fact that music piracy has decreased because people have easy and legal ways to get single songs that they want…and if anyone should know and appreciate that are the labels…they’ve admitted to making more money because of iTunes.

Posted by weshsu on November 28, 2007 at 9:57 AM (PDT)

13

As others have said, it really brings out a severe feeling of WTF’ness. Do these guys even understand basic math? The iTunes store has only slightly more to do with the success of the iPod as the color underwear I’ve got on right now. There’s only a couple of albums sold per iPod on average, i.e. the vast majority of iPod owners never use the iTS for anything.

Destroy the iTS and you’ve done what exactly? CDs and the various flavors of P2P both account for far more music on DAPs than any label approved form of downloads.

It really shows just how out of the loop they are. Yes, by all means sell DRM free music, by all means, sell it anywhere you can, but don’t kid yourselves that pulling out of the iTS is going to accomplish anything like they imagine. At best it just means they’ll shift those dollars from the iTS to another online download store. More likely, it means they’ll lose most of those dollars completely.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on November 28, 2007 at 9:57 AM (PDT)

14

I just checked my iPod.  There are 3400 songs on my iPod, about 99% legal.  Of those, 200 are from the iTunes store.  Getting rid of the iTunes store would clearly put the iPod out of business NOT!

Posted by otaku on November 28, 2007 at 10:11 AM (PDT)

15

Before iTunes, people were just stealing the music on P2P. Before iTunes, the consumer had limited choices for downloadable music (maybe eMusic and handful of others that have folded) with TONS of limits on that music.

So, how did the record labels MAKE iTunes? If anything iTunes saved the major labels!

I don’t think this guy realized how insulting he was to the consumer who champions choice instead of making music harder to access.

Posted by ajf5000 on November 28, 2007 at 10:15 AM (PDT)

16

p.s. Apple has sold 110 million iPods, and 2 billion songs.  That is less than 20 songs per iPod.  No one would buy an iPod if they depended on getting songs from the iTunes store.

Posted by otaku on November 28, 2007 at 10:30 AM (PDT)

17

It amazes me on how cocky these individuals are.  They DID NOT make iTunes…Apple did and it was only successful do to the Fans! 

I will never go back to “the way it was”  Today’s CD’s have 1 or 2 good songs on them and the rest is garbage and that my friends, is the fault of these glorious record labels.  I now only purchase Greatest Hits CD’s, rip them and put them on my iPod/iPhone which will ALWAYs be a part of my life, even if iTunes goes away.

We the Fans and Artists are what will make or break you Mr Dupri/Mr. Morris…Be careful on how much you insult us…or it will be you holding a sign “Will Dance/Sing for Food” someday…not Apple or iTunes.

Posted by SFC @rcher on November 28, 2007 at 10:36 AM (PDT)

18

Doesn’t the rhetoric reek of collusion of some kind and I thought that was illegal - acting as a monopoly to further your own interests…?

Posted by Jeremy on November 28, 2007 at 10:44 AM (PDT)

19

If they want to “break” the iTunes monopoly, why keep selling DRM tracks on iTunes and DRM-free tracks elsewhere?

Every track they sell on iTunes only *strengthens* the iTunes monopoly, because that particular consumer is “locked in.” (Their words, not mine.)

If they really want to break the iTunes-iPod monopoly, they need to sell DRM-free tracks *everywhere.*

Friggin’ idiots.

Posted by BJ Nemeth on November 28, 2007 at 11:27 AM (PDT)

20

Woah wait let me get this straight..  One of these guys wants to put out a mp3 player that gives you all the music you could possibly want for the life of the player?  On top of that you pay for this privilege in the price of the player too?  Are we talking about the same record companies here that insisted the original audio CD spec to be changed so CD’s wouldn’t be housed in a protective casing like floppy disks?  I wouldn’t count on their quality control being very good at all.

Posted by Phoenixfury on November 28, 2007 at 11:56 AM (PDT)

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