Industry Moves: WMG’s Bronfman Taps Jim Griffin To End Industry’s ‘Tarzan Economics’ Model

Former Geffen Records’ digital chief Jim Griffin has been hired by Warner Music Group (NYSE: WMG) to head up the company’s efforts to offer unlimited access to online music in exchange fees tacked on by internet service providers, Portfolio reports. Under the plan, which is a pet project of Edgar Bronfman Jr., WMG’s chairman and CEO, as a way to rescue the music industry in the age of P2P and the decline of the CD. The model calls for ISPs to create a pool of fees, which would naturally be tacked on to subscribers’ bills, and then distribute the payments to artists and copyright holders. The hiring follows the announcement that Bronfman’s brother-in-law Alejandro Zubillaga is leaving as digital head, to be succeeded by Michael Nash.

Tarzan economics: Griffin believes that this sort of model represents a positive alternative to the recording industry’s pursuit of illegal file sharers through onerous legal actions. The music label’s organ, the Recording Industry Association of America, issued roughly 5,400 threatening letters to students at more than 150 schools last year; it settled with 2,300 them and subsequently filed suit against nearly 2,500 others. Portfolio says that Griffin has been characterized as an industry critic. He describes the industry as hanging on to old models, offering an analogy based on what he says is “Tarzan economics”: “We’re still clinging to the vine of music as a product. But we’re swinging toward the vine of music as a service. We need to get ready to let go and grab the next vine, which is a pool of money and a fair way to split it up, rather than controlling the quantity and destiny of sound recordings.” Griffin’s proposal may sound euphonious to music industry execs, but he’s going to have a difficult time making anyone else listen.