It’s been a busy week at Warner Music. First they appoint Leanne Sharman of Napster UK fame as head of digital and then comes the announcement that 7 Digital will be the first digital music service in Europe to offer Warner artists without DRM.

As a first crack in the DRM ice in Europe, 7 Digital was surprise, a small one, but a surprise nevertheless especially as Amazon is expected on these shores and beyond during the summer. It’s great news for the consumer as the music market begins to mature and customer choice starts to become a reality. Of course, for Warners it’s a handy lever against the might of iTunes but that only really applies in the UK. iTunes is a player in the French and German markets but nowhere near the dominance it has in the UK and US.

For Sharman, it’s only a hop over the fence from DMS to a label and the choice of label is challenging to say the least. There’s been a bloodbath at Warner Music and its pipeline is looking pretty thin but as always everything works in cycles and maybe the gamble is to jump on while the cycle’s on low and hope for a good ride. There are some great legacy artists but Warner needs a fresh wave in 2008/early 2009 to get back on the up. Mind you, the choices are tough whichever way you look.

Universal – the big boys now but there’s little love for them and the short-term tactics, and many are waiting for a ‘told you so moment’. The next few steps for UMG will be crucial.
EMI – Uh oh, there may be (even more) trouble ahead.
SonyBMG – looking to make some big moves but needs to focus on actions and not PR. Most likely to succeed on 2008/09.
Indies – fantastic stuff going on but small scale.

The digital market is growing fast and 2008/09 is going to be the year when DRM will die and the game will change (again).

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