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The End of The Digital Music Ice Age

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You may have heard that I’ve had an action-packed month of July. I may or may not have a lot more to say about that. I haven’t quite decided yet.

I’ve spent a lot of time in London over the last few weeks and had the opportunity to meet a guy named Rob Wells. I had heard rumors that Rob was a tough customer, but frankly I thought he was terrific. He’s a straight ahead no bullshit guy. The kind of guy that I get along with.

Rob and his team at Universal are very impressive. Rob sets a very bold tone. He’s willing to experiment and also wants to be a partner, not just a pickpocket looking for as big an advance as possible from a new service and then not caring if you make it or not. I would venture to say that he has made UMG into the most progressive digital player in the entire music industry.

Make no mistake, there are many at other labels who are trying new initiatives, but I have always felt that some were not all that concerned about being true partners. Just the upfront cash. And that has been a big problem in the digital music space as it has turned off investors, leaving the industry with only the Apples, Amazons and Walmarts to dominate the space. New players need to be fostered and encouraged in order to help keep a level playing field and encourage competition. With the advent of Spotify and the Virgin Media/UMG deal, things are starting to change.

Rob Wells and team are leading the parade. They’ve seized upon their market leader status to change the environment, making it more palatable for investors and entrepreneurs to introduce new models and perhaps breathe new life into the digital music business. It was really starting to get scarily dull and bland. But Wells’ willingness to put himself out there and take chances is something that I personally have never quite encountered.

Clearly UMG’s competitors may not be too thrilled with some of the deals that Rob and company are doing, but the reality is that they must be just as adventurous or suffer dying on the vine. Only with bold and unabashedly brazen willingness to break the mold will the industry ever start to recover from its self-imposed digital ice age.

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