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Sony (NYSE: SNE) BMG will join EMI, Vivendi’s (EPA: VIV) Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group (NYSE: WMG) in selling music through A…

Sony (NYSE: SNE) BMG will join EMI, Vivendi’s (EPA: VIV) Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group (NYSE: WMG) in selling music through Amazon’s (NSDQ: AMZN) MP3 store, making it the last of the major’s to start retailing DRM-free music, BusinessWeek suggests. The Sony/Bertelsmann JV had already been expected this quarter to start selling iTunes Store-like gift cards in stores, granting access to $12.99, MP3-format albums from a forthcoming website. BW’s unnamed source says Sony BMG will, around the same time, join the other labels giving away DRM-less tunes for free via Amazon in a SuperBowl-related promotion starting February 3. It’s not clear how much of the label’s catalog will be involved.

Though none of the labels have abandoned DRM entirely (each has begun selling unlocked tracks in different ways, though all are now on board to support Amazon’s challenge of iTunes), this from Sony BMG would be indicative of the way the wind is blowing. Just two years ago, the label’s attempts to use rootkit software to control how consumers could play their CDs was lamented as spyware and a security risk. An unnamed Sony BMG exec said the label had experimented with selling DRM-free tracks for less well-known artists for six months: “A lot of these tests have led people to believe that maybe this works.”

Of the major four, EMI became first to try unlocked music in April, when it began offering a repertoire of DRM-free, higher-quality downloads through iTunes and, later, others. Universal followed suit in August, offering unlocked tracks to multiple distributors – but not iTunes – in a trial due to end this month. Warner announced it was joining the Amazon store over Christmas – the first of many such DRM-free distribution deals it is set to unveil. With all four majors on board, Amazon will now have a significantly greater shot at knocking off Apple’s (NSDQ: AAPL) crown. It’s worth noting the legions of smaller indie labels still command a large portion of global music sales, but Amazon claims the support of some 12,000 of them.

  1. This is great news! And once Apple follows suite and kills the DRM for good, everyone will benifit.

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  2. As content creators with a focus on new and emerging media, we understand the challenges surrounding the monetization ability of digital content. In this light the debate around protecting content from ‘unauthorised’ downloads / usage has intrigued me right from the beginning both as a consumer as well as a creator.
    While iTunes and more recently even sections of Bollywood have been able to sell DRM protected content and reaped moderate benefits, introducing the idea of ‘paid’ digital media to consumers, DRM implementation is still hobbled by lack of universal standards, high costs and overstated efficacy. As a Short Form Content developer in India, we have evaluated DRM specifically in our context (SFC) as opposed to the holy grail of digital content. And we believe, A new medium needs a new idiom. The success of the quirky creative endeavors has been fuelled by a viral internet platform. The content creators allow (via their web sites / channels] users to carry (embed) their work and share it with the rest of the cyber world without paying a penny.

    This massive traffic and organized distribution has created new markets and made it easier to access the old ones. For some amateurs there may not be much after a short spate of viewership but a serialized, well marketed amateur video can evolve into a brand (lonelygirl15). I strongly feel Internet is a beautiful medium to help content travel to various markets and demographics. Instead of locking it down be prepared to re-purpose / re-orient your product to any distribution channels such as Mobile or even Print.

    (comments posted by: saurabh@phonethics.in)

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