Universal Music’s Morris, Dupri speak out on iTunes

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.