More fodder for the Doug Morris’ vocal critics: Universal Music Group no longer lets MySpace users listen to full versions of its artists songs. Instead, UMG is forcing MySpace to limit streams to 90-second clips — or to stick a “promotional message” at the beginning or end of each song it streams.
(News about the change got out via professional angry dude Bob Lefsetz’ email newsletter; you’ll eventually be able to read about it on his blog.)
If UMG’s edict was permanent, this would indeed be appalling: MySpace has been one of the few bright spots in the music industry in the past few years, and cutting off access to the best promotional platform on the planet seems crazy, even by self-destructive music business standards.
But we’re pretty sure that Doug knows exactly what he’s doing here — this is classic gamesmanship. While UMG execs are claiming that the rule is actually 5 months old, and applies to any website that UMG doesn’t have a licensing deal with, this is clearly just a negotiating tactic aimed squarely at News Corp.’s (NWS) social networking giant. UMG and MySpace have been dickering back and forth over licensing fees for at least 18 months, and have been locked in a court battle for the last year. When that gets resolved — and it will — MySpacers will get their music back.
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