Feels Like Free? Warner Exploration Sparks Reactions

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Warner Music Group is now exploring the possibility of an ISP-driven music buffet – and that is stirring heavy debate within the industry.

Warner has tapped Jim Griffin to spearhead the initiative, which could include a feels-like-free, overarching monthly fee for unlimited music access.  But instead of a more controlled subscription offering like Rhapsody, the plan would affect a far broader population.

That means extra charges tacked onto existing ISP accounts, a plan that is being derided as a usage tax by some.  Others, including ISP subscribers themselves, have been cool on tucked-in charges.  Griffin first started hinting at the possibilities at SXSW earlier this month, and in a recent interview with Portfolio Magazine, the executive shared details of the Warner Music agenda.

Griffin, formerly head of digital at Geffen Records, noted that consumers currently pay for music voluntarily, resulting in “one big tip jar” for the entire recording industry.  “We want to monetize the anarchy of the internet,” Griffin said.  Warner Music noted that Griffin is part of a broader exploration, and other majors are also examining the possibilities.  That includes Universal Music Group, a company that is already putting bundled music access plans into action.