Vodafone Ditches DRM For A La Carte Music; Three Majors Aboard

Vodafone (NYSE: VOD) is the latest service provider to drop DRM from its music downloads – well, some of them, at least. The operator said it had signed deals with three of the four majors – Universal, Sony (NYSE: SNE) Music Entertainment and EMI – that will switch a million tracks in its Vodafone Music catalog to the MP3 format. The switch will take place across both PC and mobile versions, allowing customers to freely copy tracks they buy to other music-playing devices. Unlike when iTunes Store introduced DRM-free files in 2007, Vodafone customers will get to upgrade existing purchases to the new format for free. However, Vodafone won’t extend the offer to its MusicStation service, which offers unlimited downloads through a subscription. A spokesperson explained to mocoNews.net, that’s a rental model under which consumers pay £1.99 ($2.74) a week for neverending downloads to PC and mobile. Release.

Tricia adds: Vodafone’s Music store is powered by RealNetworks (NSDQ: RNWK), which revealed how well it was doing in Europe at Mobile World Congress last month. Real has music services deployed across 11 mobile operators in 10 countries throughout Europe, and operates Vodafone’s music store in nine countries. The Seattle-based company credited higher download rates to a new mobile music client on the phone that provided consumers access to millions of tracks. Real said it has seen its downloads-per-active-user in Europe increase by 28 percent in the fourth quarter 2008, compared to the same period a year earlier. Eliminating DRM will likely help them continue an aggressive growth rate.

Details on where the service will be rolled out after the jump…

The digital locks will be dropped from the store in UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and New Zealand this summer. Next up, “in due course”, will be Australia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, South Africa and Turkey. Vodafone’s partner networks will follow in its footsteps in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Iceland, Slovenia and Switzerland.