updated 09:45 am EST, Thu December 27, 2007
Amazon MP3 Warner Music
Amazon today landed a coup by announcing the availability of Warner Music Group albums on Amazon MP3. The store becomes the first to offer music from the label in a universal format withoutdigital rights management (DRM), permitting buyers to copy tracks an unlimited number of times and to play them on most any device, including those with limited access to online music stores such as the iPod and Zune lines. The addition brings Amazon's library up to 2.9 million songs, all without restrictions and at a relatively high quality 256Kbps bitrate, according to the company.
The online retailer does not say how much of the Warner catalog is in place but explains that the store will carry album bundles with exclusive tracks. Amazon does not elaborate on whether these bundles will require shoppers to buy whole albums or can be broken up into individual song purchases.
The decision marks a significant turnaround for Warner, which has often been regarded as one of the staunchest opponents of freeing music from copy protection. Its chief executive Edgar Bronfman earned notoriety from a segment of the online community by attacking Apple head Steve Jobs for suggesting that removing copy protection was the only true solution to interoperability between music stores. The decision to sell through Amazon MP3 is a reflection of public demand, Warner claims.
"Consumers want flexibility with respect to what they can do with music once they purchase it, and we want them to have that flexibility," says the label's Senior VP of Digital Strategy, Michael Nash. "We believe that giving consumers the assurance that the music they purchase can be played on any device they own will only encourage more sales of music."
No word has been received of similar offerings from eMusic, iTunes, or other stores that offer some or all of its collection in unprotected formats. However, the move echoes a similar approach by rival Universal Music, which has consciously excluded Apple from its non-DRM music trial. The experiment is formally designed to use Apple as a controlling factor to gauge response but is unofficially believed to be an attempt to undermine Apple's dominance of online music sales and obtain greater flexibility in pricing.