Big Music's Britney Bailout: Not Happening

Lots of heavy breathing about Warner Music Group’s sort-of-kinda-maybe-a-little-bit interest in pursuing some sort of ISP-based fee. But if sort of thing gets you worked up, relax — if you live in the U.S., at least, you’re not going to see this happen.

WMG’s plan, such as it is (the company has hired one exec, and created an LLC to explore the idea), isn’t new. Various music services (Napster, Rhapsody, etc) and music labels (Unviersal Music Group) have been pushing for variations on this for a long time. But the ISPs (the cable guys, telcos, etc) have been firm about rejecting it. They’ll consider adding a music service as an additional fee for subs who want it, or adding music into some sort of “premium tier”, but they’re not going to bundle it in across the board.

Why? Because even if they wanted to do it, there’s no way they could pull it off in the U.S. — it’d be correctly viewed as a tax to bail out the music business, and there’s zero political support for a Britney Spears tax.

Could it happen in other countries, which are more amenable to “cultural” subsidies? Maybe. WMG execs say if this goes anywhere at all, it will be in Europe, where variations on the idea already exist (see the UK’s “licence fee” for TV). So put down your pitchforks, and cancel the march on Washington: This one isn’t going anywhere.

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