Universal Music: No Google/China Deal Yet

After reading about Universal Music Group’s plans to give away music via Google China, we queried UMG to get some more details. Their response: Contrary to the WSJ’s piece ($) this morning, UMG hasn’t signed on yet. The companies are in “preliminary talks”, a UMG spokesman tells us.

Ok, noted. But assuming that the plan does go through, we’re in favour of it. And we’re hopeful that it augurs similar moves at UMG and its big music competitors. The gist: Rather than try to convince the Chinese, who consume almost all of their Internet music illegally, to start paying for it, UMG would give away at least some its catalogue via Google. UMG would then share ad revenue with the search engine and Top100.cn, a Chinese music site.

This is heartening, because it shows that UMG, which has long been resistant to marking down its music prices in the face of piracy, may now be willing to consider a “can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach. It’s a direction that some Hollywood studios have also moved in, by knocking down the prices of their Chinese DVDs so that they’re competitive with black market discs. And if UMG’s willing to do it in China, it provides the company with an excellent test case for rollouts in other markets.

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