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Sony boss shares his thoughts on freemium: “In general, free is death”

By | Published on Friday 13 March 2015

Doug Morris

So everyone’s joining in with the good old freemium debate at the moment aren’t they?

For the record, my Great Aunt Marge thinks that ultimately Spotify Freemium will need to reduce either its content or functionality to allow the emergence of a mid-market subscription service, though she concedes that YouTube poses a challenge here, and the removal of some of the video site’s playlisting tools might be necessary for it all to work. Which is interesting. Though I’m pretty sure she stole at least some of that off Mark Mulligan.

But anyway, what does Sony Music chief overseer Doug Morris think about all this? That’s the question my Great Aunt Marge was most eager to ask when we had our monthly streaming-chat-and-scones-get-together the other day.

All talk of late has been about Universal Music boss man Lucian Grainge having a rethink about what kind of freemium services he should be licensing, but what about Morris, who was leading Universal when free-to-access music platforms first emerged before taking over the reins at the Sony record company?

Well, good news, Hits Daily Double has only gone and asked the man himself. “Basically, I equate ‘free’ with the decline of the music business”, he said. “Why should anyone pay for anything if they can get it for free? In certain instances, it’s worth a discussion. But in general, free is death”.

So, a bit negative towards freemium then. But don’t worry Spotifyers, you’re not the problem here. “The biggest culprit is YouTube, with their links to free sites”, he went on. “This has to be curbed if we’re going to have a successful business”. And if you’re not sure what he means by ‘links to free sites’, well, me neither.

But don’t worry, people. Jimmy Iovine’s going to fix everything. “If there’s a subscription model that gives people what they want, it’ll work. I believe Jimmy Iovine will do well with Apple Beats; he knows how to market things brilliantly. He’ll make it sexy enough to have a real chance. They’ve got 850 million credit cards and $160 billion in the bank – that’s a good start”.

And Spotify’s great too, remember. “Daniel Ek from Spotify deserves a tremendous amount of credit for pushing the rock up the hill. Everybody’s trying to find the magic key to open that box. But no one’s done it yet. I hope they both win. We’re counting on it”.

So now you know. Shall we all now agree to not mention the word ‘freemium’ for at least a week? And yes, that includes all of you heading to Austin.



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