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Universal opens DRM-free rare music store

updated 03:55 pm EDT, Wed July 30, 2008

Universal LostTunes

Universal today took an unusual route in announcing LostTunes, its own company-run store. Rather than sell a bulk catalog, the service focuses only on rare and at times unreleased albums from the music label's collection. Albums are hand-picked by Universal and cover several different eras ranging from classic jazz on the Verve label to Joni Mitchell and electronic music. The catalog will start small with just 134 albums but will add 500 albums within the next half-year; the goal is to offer a new way to buy into a back catalog, Universal says.

To that end, many artists and albums have biographies and opinions on their respective pages.

All songs are also encoded as 320Kbps MP3s that are both described as "double the quality of iTunes" (128Kbps AAC) and play properly on any device, including iPods and Macs. The store is backed by UK music store 7 Digital and will at first be available only to British users at prices of 99p per track and 8 for a typical album, though Universal promises versions for other countries in "coming months."

Universal has been experimenting with several alternative business models in part to avoid giving Apple too much control over music. In addition to withholding DRM-free music from iTunes, the label is credited for originating Nokia's Comes With Music service, which adds to the initial cost of certain cellphones in exchange for unlimited yet permanent copy protected downloads from multiple major labels for the space of a year. [via Distorted-Loop]

by MacNN Staff



  1. horvatic

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Sell it on iTunes DRM Fre

    Universal can do what it wants, but I'm not buying until it's on iTunes. Sell it on iTunes DRM free and I'll buy it, but not until then.

  1. gregrochedc

    Joined: Dec 1969


    DRM is good/DRM is bad?

    I'm not sure I understand. Didn't music companies insist that Apple include DRM in order to distribute/sell their music to reduce theft/piracy? Now the music companies are releasing DRM-free music to "counter" iTunes? Won't this promote piracy? I guess I'm just confused.....

  1. bigpoppa206

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The bottom line

    is that the music industry once insisted on DRM, but now that they see it's a moot point, they would prefer to leverage no DRM against the ability to set their own prices for downloads. That's the only reason labels are trying to put pressure on Apple, because Apple will not bend on pricing.

  1. robttwo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    still asses

    Anyone want to guess how much of the profits will be going to the original artists -- ?


  1. bmn

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Sell it on eMusic!!!!!

    Universal can do what it wants, but I'm not buying until it's on eMusic. Sell it on eMusic DRM free and I'll buy it, but not until then.

  1. Johnny Niles

    Joined: Dec 1969



    While 320kb MP3s is better than the usual 128k or 256k, it's not "double" the quality of a 128kb AAC file. And it's not better quality than a 256kb AAC file either.

  1. ophiochos

    Joined: Dec 1969


    good for us all though

    ok, so they are playing silly buggers with Apple. But the catalogue is fantastic. Shame MP3 is such a lousy format. the people who like this kind of stuff will want good quality. They should have gone with AAC (which nearly everything plays now anyway). In the long run, any crumbling of DRM will make it easier for honest users who pay for the stuff. If DRM becomes very patchy and rarer, then soon enough it will be an annoying memory instead of an annoying everyday event. People who want to pirate stuff just bypass it anyway.

  1. revco

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I'll pass

    0.99 per track! That's $2.08 Australian (or $1.96 US). I thought $1.69 per track from the Australian iTunes Store was excessive but this is ridiculous.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: still asses

    Anyone want to guess how much of the profits will be going to the original artists -- ?

    Well, considering they're talking their back catalog, and a lot of it sounds like back-back-back catalog, it probably is all under the wonderful contract terms of yesteryear, where the artists got royalties for a few years, and the labels owned all the rights.

    So, I'd guess none.

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