Universal To Test Sales Of DRM-Free Music
August 10, 2007 at 5:45 AM (PT)
Are usage restrictions on authorized song downloads hampering the development of the digital music market? FORBES reports it's a widely held assumption that's about to face its next key test: UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP, the world's largest music company, said THURSDAY that it will begin "testing" the sale of restriction-free downloads through a variety of online vendors later this month.
During its trial run UMG said it will make "thousands" of its albums and songs available for download without so-called digital rights management (DRM) restrictions to observe consumer demand, price sensitivity and the impact on piracy. The songs will be sold in the mp3 format, which can be played on any handheld music player, including the market-leading iPOD from APPLE, as well as on any cell phone that can play music. The test run will begin AUGUST 21st and will run through the end of JANUARY.
One big vendor is being left out of the mix: UNIVERSAL is shutting out APPLE's iTUNES STORE from its trial run. Why? Because it wants to use iTUNES as a control group against which to compare its sale of DRM-free downloads elsewhere.
AMAZON.COM is included in the list selling the music, which is significant because the online retail giant is widely viewed to have the best chance of challenging iTUNES' dominance of the digital music market.
Also intriguing is the participation of GOOGLE. The search giant hasn't yet officially disclosed plans for an online music store, but it has long been rumored to be interested in opening one.