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May 22, 2007

EMI to be sold – DRM-free music downloads in jeopardy?


I just got finished gushing over Amazon’s forthcoming DRM free music store which features tunes from big publisher EMI and many independent labels and now comes news that puts the whole DRM free music download movement in doubt:

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Posted at 10:50 pm. Filed under Amazon, Apple, Brands, Companies, EMI, Internet, iPod, iTunes, MP3 Player, Music downloads, Portable Audio

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May 16, 2007

Amazon announces DRM-Free MP3 music store


Back in April I observed that the Apple-EMI deal to provide DRM free downloads in the iTunes store was non-exclusive, and today the second shoe dropped as Amazon announced they will “will launch a digital music store later this year offering millions of songs in the DRM-free MP3 format from more than 12,000 record labels” including EMI and a lot of minor players:

“Our MP3-only strategy means all the music that customers buy on Amazon is always DRM-free and plays on any device,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and CEO. “We’re excited to have EMI joining us in this effort and look forward to offering our customers MP3s from amazing artists like Coldplay, Norah Jones and Joss Stone.”

Amazon didn’t specify when exactly the store would open or how much the tunes would cost, but Bruce Houghton at WebProNews has some rumors:

While the official announcement says “later this year”, sources tell us that Amazon is pushing for an “as soon as possible” launch that is primarily being held up by technology and data issues. June or July would seem a likely launch time frame as Amazon is anxious to beat competitors to the inevitable rush of DRM free product.

Amazon is also said to be offering flexible and lower pricing with full album downloads retailing at $4.99 to $8.99 and individual tracks ranging from $.89-$.99.

We hear rumblings of more labels including perhaps some Universal product and the catalogs of some larger indies and distributed labels that have previously held onto DRM signing onto Amazon prior to launch.

Perhaps naively, I think this is the beginning of the end of DRM based music downloads, and the fact that Amazon is offering MP3s may even put a crimp into iTunes whose DRM-free offerings are only in AAC format. Who knows, even the CD’s days may be numbered.


Posted at 10:29 pm. Filed under Amazon, Apple, Brands, Companies, EMI, Internet, iPod, iTunes, MP3 Player, Music downloads, Portable Audio

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April 2, 2007

EMI announces DRM free music with Apple’s help


The earlier rumblings came to pass as today, major music publisher EMI announced copy protection free downloads with Apple’s iTunes as the first vendor:

EMI Group CEO Eric Nicoli today hosted a press conference at EMI’s headquarters in London where he announced that EMI Music is launching DRM-free superior quality downloads across its entire digital repertoire and that Apple’s iTunes Store will be the first online music store to sell EMI’s new downloads. Nicoli was joined by Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

EMI Music today announced that it is launching new premium downloads for retail on a global basis, making all of its digital repertoire available at a much higher sound quality than existing downloads and free of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions.

Apple’s iTunes Store (www.itunes.com) is the first online music store to receive EMI’s new premium downloads. Apple has announced that iTunes will make individual AAC format tracks available from EMI artists at twice the sound quality of existing downloads, with their DRM removed, at a price of $1.29/€1.29/£0.99. iTunes will continue to offer consumers the ability to pay $0.99/€0.99/£0.79 for standard sound quality tracks with DRM still applied. Complete albums from EMI Music artists purchased on the iTunes Store will automatically be sold at the higher sound quality and DRM-free, with no change in the price. Consumers who have already purchased standard tracks or albums with DRM will be able to upgrade their digital music for $0.30/€0.30/£0.20 per track. All EMI music videos will also be available on the iTunes Store DRM-free with no change in price.

EMI is willing to sign up other vendors too, but Apple is first out of the gate and this is a great PR victory for Steve Jobs after his open letter calling for an end to DRM. The general belief at the moment is that most music on iPods and other digital music players is actually ripped from CDs and not downloaded, so it will be interesting to see if the higher quality coupled with lack of DRM changes that. Maybe the end of the CD is in sight?

Update: A useful word of caution from Eliot Van Buskirk:

Although certain non-iPod players can handle unprotected AAC, the format hardly enjoys the sort of universal support that MP3 does. Although Microsoft, Nokia, Sandisk (e200 line), and Sony already include AAC playback on their devices, other players from Sandisk, Creative, Toshiba, Cowon, Philips, etc. won’t be able to play the new files… yet.

If the idea of selling music as unprotected AAC files takes off as much as EMI and Apple expect it to, support for AAC will become a critical feature on any digital audio player. Fortunately, that can be added via firmware, as Sony did last year to several of its models.

So keep checking with your vendor for updates if you want to play and AAC isn’t currently supported.


Posted at 10:56 am. Filed under Apple, Brands, Companies, EMI, Internet, iPod, iTunes, MP3 Player, Music downloads, Portable Audio, Video Downloads

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