Universal Sticking Its Toe Into The DRM-Free Water

Apr 16th, 2007 // 1 Comment

While Warner Music Group has sort-of decided that it doesn’t want to sell MP3s, the Universal Music Group is planning on entering the digital-rights-management-free space with some of its classical offerings. From
Reuters:

Amazon, which is considered the best bet to challenge iTunes’ supremacy in the digital world, is shooting to launch its MP3 digital download store in May, a target date it has yet to publicly acknowledge. (Amazon declines comment.) Meanwhile, sources familiar with the situation say Universal Music Group plans to test the sale of unprotected digital music files, including some of its classical music catalog conceivably including titles by Andrea Bocelli, at the new Amazon store and other outlets.

Universal has previously tested the sale of some isolated digital rights management-free music, from Jesse McCartney in the United States and French acts Superbus and Emilie Simon in Europe. But now the company plans to expand that initiative significantly by selling classical selections through download stores and subscription services, in the DRM-free format of the retailers’ choice. Universal is planning tests in other genres as well, sources say.

It’s unclear so far whether iTunes is included among stores slated to sell unprotected Universal music, and the label could not be reached to comment.

Universal’s adventures in the DRM-free space should be excellent blog fodder over the coming weeks, given Doug Morris’ penchant for cracking down on anyone distributing music in a way that isn’t to his liking–and Universal’s appointment of an executive strictly in charge of antipiracy measures. Whether or not those tests in other genres will include measurement of purchased files being swapped is up in the air, but the clock has started ticking: Apple announced that EMI’s DRM-free offerings will definitely be available on iTunes next month.

Universal, Amazon beef up MP3 sales space [Reuters]

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  1. Chris Molanphy

    As the largest of the four majors, Universal can hold out a lot longer than Warner could. They will no doubt cave last, if “The Thug” has anything to say about it.

    Sony/BMG will probably be the next to dip their toes in, if only because they haven’t made any end-times statements a la Morris or Bronfman – and Sir Howard Stringer is fundamentally more sane than they are.

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