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.