Watch out for the Iceberg!

Universal Music SVP Peter Lofrumento went on record yesterday refuting previous claims that Universal were considering DRM free music sales with Apple. There were also ‘unnamed source’ reports from within UMG that some senior execs are strongly opposed to the idea and

“want to knock Jobs off of his pedestal”.

What’s particularly interesting about this is the way in which it hints at the massive divisions within the major record labels. Digital music (and what to do with it) are creating major fault lines right through the majors and detritus is beginning to fall through the gaping cracks. When he was the head of the BPI Peter Jamieson said that the music industry is like an oil tanker: it can see the iceberg but it needs a few miles to change course.

The course is being changed now, unfortunately only half the ship has been told.

Another example of the division was UMG’s CEO Doug Morris going on record last year that Youtube were copyright infringers that needed dealing with, only for UMG to sign a deal with them the same week.

But the divisions apply across the whole major label base. At the start of this year Jupiter fielded a major survey of European music execs on their attitudes to DRM and among the results was the stat that 58 percent of major label execs were in favour of dropping DRM. (click here for the full report). A sneak peak at the labels for which those execs work reveals that that wasn’t all EMI folks but responses right across the majors.

It seems that the mantras of top level management of many majors are becoming increasingly out of synch with ‘troops on the ground’. The question now is whether that means we’ll have to wait for the current generation of senior management to retire or change their thinking. Either way, half an oil tanker doesn’t float.