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Effective today, Warner Music Group (NYSE: WMG) follows Universal Music Group and EMI to the DRM-free Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) MP3 store. For Warner, it’s an admission that DRM-free music is part of its present and future; for Amazon, it’s a major influx of titles for the store launched in September and a boost to its competition with Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) iTunes. While titles from Warner are supposed to be in the store today, it’s unclear how many songs and albums are involved. The release simply says “songs from WMG’s digital audio catalog.” In addition to the a la carte sales, WMG will team with Amazon to provide album bundles with exclusive tracks and other “digital music products.”
Why Amazon? The long answer from WMG exec Michael Nash in the release really boils down to “it’s not Apple” — although not in those explicit words. There’s also no mention of financial terms. Amazon sells more than one million of its nearly 3 million for $0.89 per song with the top 100 albums running for $8.99. Amazon’s holiday sales press release tossed around lots of numbers but nothing specific about MP3 sales./ Release.
Billboard: “WMG becomes the last of the four majors to make a commitment to stripping-out DRM from its catalog, following suit behind EMI, Universal Music and Sony (NYSE: SNE) BMG, which is expected to make its first foray into the MP3 format when it launches artist-specific digital download album cards in mid-January.”
Update: Just heard back from WMG with a little more detail: the deal covers WMG’s entire digital catalog — “hundreds of thousands” of tracks; among the artists who now will available in DRM-free MP3 — Madonna. The process of putting tracks in the system has started but it will be some time before searches for WMG artists bring up tracks instead of responses that Amazon MP3 “does not yet offer the compete XXX catalog” because “not all record labels have approved their music for sale as MP3s yet.”