Ten months after Warner Music head Edgar Bronfman said that Apple’s Steve Jobs suggestion that dropping DRM copy protection from digital music was “completely without logic or merit,” Bronfman reversed direction last Thursday by licensing its catalog, DRM free, to the Amazon MP3 music store. Warner joins EMI and Universal in offering higher quality (256 kbps), DRM free mp3s through Amazon’s online store, leaving Sony as the odd man out in the major label circle.

On the surface it would appear that the majors are simply responding to consumer demand and giving music fans what they want. But the fact is, the majors hate the digital monopoly that Steve Jobs has with iPod/iTunes. They understand that the only way to increase their margins on digital music and regain some of the control that Apple has taken from them is to reach the billions of iPods floating around. Their endgame is almost certainly to get customers in the habit of purchasing mp3 files from a place other than iTunes (which currently accounts for 70% of all digital music sold).

DRM (digital rights management) is technology that copyright holders place on a digital file to restrict its usage. It’s a flawed, user-unfriendly tactic, and it will go away. But while it exists, I will continue to do my online music buying with DRM-free retailers emusic and Amazon.

Surely as a response to Amazon’s more competitive pricing structure for DRM-free music, iTunes has announced that they will drop the price of their iTunes Plus songs (256kbps, DRM-free) from $1.29 to $.99. iTunes Plus includes songs from EMI as well as a number of larger independent labels. Amazon’s mp3 store, which launched on September 25th, offers DRM-free songs for between $.89 and $.99. The battle is likely to continue as it’s clear that the majors, and in particular Universal, are not pleased with Apple’s dominance of the online music world (70% of all digital music sales are currently through iTunes).

First, what the heck is Richard Wagner doing as the #1 artist on Amazon’s new MP3 store?


All signs indicate that the Amazon store will give iTunes a run for it’s money as the most popular online music store. First, all the music is DRM free (thanks in part to a feud between Universal and iTunes), and high quality. The site is incredible easy to use, searching for new music is intuitive, and my Wagner download (“Apostles Mean for Small Choir & Orchestra”, I had to hear what the big deal was!) took no time to appear in my iTunes interface. Songs are also variably priced as opposed to the flat $.99 or album only method that iTunes offers.