Universal Embarks On DRM-Free Experiment – Gives iTunes The Finger

Universal Music Group has announced that they will embark on a “DRM-Free experiments” through the holiday season with Amazon, Wal-Mark, Rhapsody, Google and other players, but not iTunes.

The world’s biggest record label will allow select albums in its vast catalog to be made available in its experiment, but is not ready to crack the chest wide open. Universal has been battling with iTunes on a number of fronts and is now commencing on a strategy that it hopes will wrestle control of the digital retail space away from the retailer. Universal’s saber-rattling is great news to online retailers such as RealNetworks who has been lobbying the labels to offer MP3’s for some time.

Rob Glaser and company must be ecstatic! Now they can actually compete with Apple for downloads to the world’s most popular digital music player, the ubiquitous iPod. This is a huge gain for Real, as well as other download stores that could never compete head to head with Apple.

According to reports, the Universal songs will be encoded in 256kbps quality, and begin rollout starting on August 21st. Songs from 50 Cent, Amy Winehouse, Johnny Cash, will initially be made available, and sold at the same price point as protected songs.

The Future: This is a bold move by Universal. After their negotiations with Apple failed for better terms and an increase to the 99 cent price point on new music, Universal probably determined that they better make a stand or forever hold their peace. Their only trump card was to release their music DRM-Free, and eliminate Apple from the party. However, slapping Steve “The Wizard Of Oz” Jobs in the face was not the right way to do it. Apple owns digital music space for one simple reason: their Kung-Fu Is Best! No one has been able to successfully compete with Apple’s digital music hardware and software. Their elegant, integrated system is hard to beat, and is only getting better. Universal’s gamble will only hurt them in the long run since the only way Apple’s online music competitors will be able to battle the giant is by cuttiing prices. Not paying attention to the man behind the curtain will come back to haunt them…

Author: FutureMusic

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