Warner CEO: "We Were Wrong."

Speaking at the GSMA Mobile Asia Congress in Macau on November 13, Warner Music Group (WMG) chairman and CEO Edgar Bronfman, Jr. warned mobile phone executives to heed the mistakes of the record industry as it moved forward.

"Music is crucial to the future of the mobile industry," Bronfman said. "Consumers remind us of this every day."

"Our two industries have some critical choices to make and not a lot of time to make them. Take it from us music industry folks. We used to fool ourselves. We used to think our content was perfect just exactly as it was. We expected our business would remain blissfully unaffected even as the world of interactivity, constant connection, and file sharing was exploding.

"And of course we were wrong. By standing still or moving at a glacial pace, we inadvertently went to war with consumers by denying them what they wanted and could otherwise find . . . and as a result, of course, consumers won."

What shocked some listeners even more than that mea culpa were the chairman's comments about Apple—a company Bronfman had publicly criticized for Apple spokesmodel Steve Jobs' tirade against DRM. "You need to look no further than Apple's iPhone to see how fast brilliantly written software presented on a beautifully designed device with a spectacular user interface will throw all the accepted notions about pricing, billing platforms, and brand loyalty right out the window. . . .

"Ladies and gentlemen, take it from an industry that learned its lesson. Painfully. Very painfully. Our world was rocked."

Bronfman told the mobile execs that the lesson that the recording industry had learned was that companies have to make it easier for the consumer to purchase paid-for content than to obtain it elsewhere. "Consumers buy what they value. And quite honestly, for the most part, you and we are not giving them what they value. And even when we do, it is almost always hard for them to access."

Does that sentiment signal a change of heart about DRM? That seems like a stretch, given Bronfman's public spat with Jobs, but admitting you have a problem is frequently the first step in solving it. Congratulations, Mr. Chairman. War is over if you want it.

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