Sunday, April 09, 2006

Robbie Williams into digital music

BERLIN (Reuters) - A new mobile phone that includes a link into Robbie Williams' Web site and plays his songs is another step in a "digital revolution" that the recording industry must take advantage of, not spurn, his manager said.

Williams, one of Europe's most successful entertainers, has angered music industry executives in the past by praising internet piracy, once even calling it a "great idea".

In an interview ahead of the pop singer's world tour, which starts on Monday, his manager Tim Clark said the industry should classify digital music seekers as customers, not criminals.

Defending the piracy comments, Clark said: "The recording companies are taking a big stick to people who are not criminals at all.

"What Williams means is that if we can't provide the fans with the wherewithal to do it (download) legally, frankly it's our fault and not theirs. If they're not providing the carrots, they're leaving it to others who will."

Clark said Williams, who in October live-streamed a Berlin concert to 100,000 mobile phones, wanted to push the "digital revolution" further. He said the new phone made with T-Mobile and Sony Ericsson was just another step towards that aim.

"Digital sales are a reality -- it's clear that the physical sales (of music) are dropping at double-digit percentage rates," said Clark, one of Williams' two managers, when asked why the star was teaming up with firms outside the recording industry.

"Digital sales already mean a great deal in places like Korea and Japan. We want to be involved because people like T-Mobile and Sony will have a huge influence on how music is distributed. We need to be involved to have some influence.

"It's about being part of that future," he added. "Even though there might be some drawbacks now -- some people say the quality of compressed music is not as good as CDs. They are right, but that will improve dramatically over time."

The "Walkman" phone to be unveiled on Monday contains Williams' music and live video clips, and links to his Web site.

Williams, 32, launches his five-month world tour in Durban, South Africa. Encompassing 40 concerts in 14 countries, it is his first tour in three years, and entered the Guinness book of world records for the fastest-selling concert after 1.6 million tickets worth $187 million sold out in hours on November 19.


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