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Universal to sell DRM-free tracks, excludes iTunes

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By Charles Starrett

Contributing Editor
Published: Thursday, August 9, 2007
News Categories: Digital Media

Universal Music Group has announced plans to begin selling DRM-free tracks from select artists such as Sting, 50 Cent and Stevie Wonder, for a limited time. The tracks, which are to be available as unrestricted MP3s, will be sold on the artists’ websites and through several online retailers, such as RealNetworks, Wal-Mart, Amazon.com, and Google. The DRM-free tracks will not be available, however, through iTunes. Some believe that this is a move by Universal to undermine Apple’s overwhelming lead in this market; Universal claims that it is using the iTunes Store as a control group for measuring the impact of DRM-free sales on pricing, piracy and sales. “There’s no doubt these guys are poking a stick at Apple,” said Michael Gartenberg, analyst for Jupiter Research.

Universal Music Chairman and CEO Doug Morris said the test is one of several the company is conducting this year and “will provide valuable insights into the implications of selling our music in an open format.” “Universal Music Group is committed to exploring new ways to expand the availability of our artists’ music online, while offering consumers the most choice in how and where they purchase and enjoy our music,” Morris said. The tracks will be available from Aug. 21 to Jan. 31.

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Comments

1

Guess what I’m not buying?  Universal music from somewhere other than iTunes.  I will also boycott CDs from universal as well…

Posted by GuessWhat? on August 9, 2007 at 6:14 PM (PDT)

2

I’m poking my middle finger at Universal.

Posted by Sancroff on August 9, 2007 at 6:41 PM (PDT)

3

Those are dumb comments.  I like music, not some piece of software, I’d totally buy the music.

Posted by vmmvmmm on August 9, 2007 at 6:51 PM (PDT)

4

I like music too. But we’re not talking about music, are we? We’re talking about Universal. Since when does Universal == music?

Posted by Sancroff on August 9, 2007 at 6:58 PM (PDT)

5

For once I believe Universal. It makes sense.

But can they stop with the corporate language? At least they didn’t say “consume their music”. Ugh.

Posted by Pikemann_Urge on August 9, 2007 at 7:08 PM (PDT)

6

I only buy from iTunes and only iTunes. Good Luck to them, Im not buying from anywhere else.

Posted by unreal on August 9, 2007 at 7:55 PM (PDT)

7

Hello Universal.  Porkbutt here.  Hey you know what, we aren’t making enough money reselling the music we have had people buy over the past 40 years in several different formats.  I say we find a way to marginalize iTunes so that we can jack up prices again.  The consumer?  Who cares about them, we have our precious lard butts to pad.

Posted by porkbutt on August 9, 2007 at 8:07 PM (PDT)

8

I agree with Guess What. I mean, it screws us in terms of getting DRM-free music, but I want to support iTunes. For Universal it’s the perfect plan. If iTunes suffers then there’s more power to them, if iTunes does well and DRM-free music suffers then they can say the public doesn’t want DRM-free music. I say we boycott Universal.

Posted by urbanslaughter on August 9, 2007 at 8:17 PM (PDT)

9

I for one am not running around the net to different sites to figure out which song I like is from what label and what site to download it from crap.  My only source of online music is iTunes and the occasional cd here and there at the record store.  I am not getting my music anywhere else.  If it isn’t there, then I’m not buying it.

Posted by canadan on August 9, 2007 at 8:34 PM (PDT)

10

Universal’s head honcho is:

DOUG MORRIS, CHAIRMAN & CEO

They have corporate HQ offices on both coasts, and here are the mailing addresses:

UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP
2220 COLORADO AVE
SANTA MONICA CA 90404-3506

UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP
1755 BROADWAY
NEW YORK NY 10019-3743

Posted by chashulme in Southern California on August 9, 2007 at 11:22 PM (PDT)

11

I just hope that the downloads are than an actual CD. In my opinion online music and movies are still copies/lower quality to the original. I think that movies/tv shows should come included or at least there should be an option to pay a little more to get a copy of the movie for your computer or whathaveyou but no one would ever go for that.

Posted by Daniel on August 10, 2007 at 12:52 AM (PDT)

12

downloads are(cheaper)than the actual cd

Posted by Daniel on August 10, 2007 at 12:55 AM (PDT)

13

Wow!  I think we can safely say that Universal officially sucks!  What a shame they are putting so much effort into undermining a win - win product like iTunes, and so little effort into actually creating something positive.  Sigh

Posted by lostkiwi on August 10, 2007 at 1:24 AM (PDT)

14

Apple should just pull all UMG stuff from it’s iTMS for the duration of Universal’s trial period.  It would be interesting to how it would affect UMGs sales figures.

Posted by The Raven in USA on August 10, 2007 at 3:09 AM (PDT)

15

The real questions for me are:
1. How much will tracks cost?  (Want to see if they’ll really be 99 cents.)
2. What bitrate will they be at?
3. What songs/albums will be available.  “Select artists” doesn’t sound very promising to me.  I like a number of Universal artists but I doubt they are the super popular ones that are likely to be “selected”.

If it’s going to be 128 kbps, then forget it.  I’ll just continue buying iTunes tracks and freeing them from DRM using one of the solutions that have been around for years now.  But I would jump ship for 256 kbps DRM-free MP3 tracks for 99 cents.

Posted by dodo on August 10, 2007 at 6:13 AM (PDT)

16

The only reason Universal are doing this is because they plan to charge more then 99 cents a track like iTunes, or they will force users to download the complete album for a price about $1 lower than a CD.  No thanks.

You know whay people use iTunes?  It’s convenient and gives one-stop shopping.  I go there buy the tracks I want (very rarely a complete album), sync my iPod and I’m done.  Why do I want to troll from website to website looking for what I want when it comes to music.

Universal, you are about to shoot yourself in the foot.  Listen to MC Lars…
“Hey Mr. Record Man
The joke’s on you
Running your label
Like it was 1992”

Posted by DontCare on August 10, 2007 at 8:13 AM (PDT)

17

It’s a stand off, but I’d love for Apple to remove all Universal Music from their iTMS.  Unfortunately this sort of move from Apple is unlikely, they’d be injuring themselves as well.  I think boycotting Universal Music is a consumer issue, but it’s one I don’t think enough people would get behind to send a message, ie in the Universal pocket book.  Of course other record labels will probably side with Universal and follow their lead.  Apple as become a player and they don’t like that.  Perhaps Apple can strike back in other ways like only promoting music with labels that play nice, so offer the Universal music, but the consumer will have to look for it, ie not on the home page.

Posted by kaioslider on August 10, 2007 at 8:45 AM (PDT)

18

BOYCOTT universal

Posted by urbanslaughter on August 10, 2007 at 9:13 AM (PDT)

19

@Daniel, CDs are cheaper than downloads, you just gotta know where to look.
http://www.yourmusic.com/

Posted by Galley in Greenville, SC on August 10, 2007 at 9:32 AM (PDT)

20

Wow…what a bunch of apple fanboys.  Are you people seriously saying you’d rather by DRM-laden music from a single source who controls 90%+ of the market and pushes around the record labels, artists and even national governments instead of supporting DRM-free music and an open marketplace for digital music.  Of course this is a business decision for Universal.  They’re tired of getting bullied by iTunes and Steve Jobs and not having any say in how their music gets sold.  But it just so happens that this WILL end up being good for all consumers if DRM-free music gets support and catches on.  At that point, digital music becomes a commodity that gets sold all over the net, in universally compatible format.  You know that Amazon will use it as a loss-leader product to get you into their store.  I wouldn’t be suprised to see 89 cent or even 79 cent tracks to get you in so you’ll buy an iPod from them.

You people seriously need a lesson in economics and the free market.  It’s ironic that many of you undoubtedly scorn Microsoft for doing the same things Apple is doing to digital music.  It’s called a monopoly folks, and it’s not good for anyone except the monopolist.

Posted by jeff on August 10, 2007 at 10:38 AM (PDT)

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