Labels may be split on DRM in wake of Jobs memo

Music industry representatives have thumbed their noses at Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ call this week for DRM to be dropped from digital downloads.

Referring to Jobs’ suggestion of licensing Apple’s FairPlay DRM technology far and wide, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) CEO Mitch Bainwol tol the AP: “We have no doubt that a technology company as sophisticated and smart as Apple could work with the music community to make that happen.”

But that was just one option amongst a trio of suggestions from Jobs, whose preferred avenue was encouraging the labels to drop their insistence on DRM, and the comment is being seen as a misinterpretation.

Meanwhile, a split may be appearing within the labels on issue. Warner Music Group boss Edgard Bronfman Jr said Jobs’ suggestion was without “logic or merit”, instead advocating a DRM future as his company this morning posted a 74% fall in profits thanks to declining album sales.

But the Wall Street Journal today says London-based EMI could announce a DRM-free business model as soon as today.

Sources say the label – for months touted as the most likely to experiment with unprotected downloads – has proposed to a range of retailers a model under which they would make advance payments to the label based on their projected future sales of EMI music.

That would add some security and ease worried brows at the record company over loss of revenue.

The report says retailers were due to give their views to EMI by yesterday.