Universal Music Group To Trial DRM-Free Music; iTunes Not Included

Universal Music Group (EPA:VIV), the largest music label, is definitely hedging its bets: it is going to experiment with selling digital music from artists such as Sting, 50 Cent and Stevie Wonder without the DRM…this is a trial for a limited time (from Aug. 21 to Jan. 31), and will be available for purchase on the recording artists’ sites and through several online music retailers, although Universal is excluding Apple’s iTunes store. UMG and Apple are locked into a negotiation battle over long term music deal, with differences over flat rate vs variable pricing. Of course, you can always play the MP3 format songs you buy from other stores on iPod.

But, according to AP, UMG spokesperson framed withholding Apple another way: he said the company isn’t selling through iTunes for now so it could use the Apple store as a control group for measuring the impact of sales on pricing, piracy and sales. The sites on which it will sell: Amazon.com, Google (?), Wal-Mart, BestBuy, RealNetworks’s Rhapsody, Transworld, PassAlong Networks and Puretracks.

Pricing suggested is 99 cents and in a variety of bit rates. Universal will be offering the tracks in the MP3 format, but the retailers will be free to sell the tracks in any DRM-free format they choose.

This follows EMI’s first forays into DRM-free songs earlier this year, in a deal with iTunes.

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