Apple may have been the first out the gate with selling DRM-free music tracks via its iTunes Plus offering—and Amazon.com quickly announcing plans to follow—but now MusicNet has announced it will offer over one million DRM-free music tracks to its partners. MusicNet—the music unit of the newly-named MediaNet Digital—is the service provider behind a number of digital music download servers that, well, that aren’t iTunes, including Yahoo Music Unlimited, Microsoft/MTV partnership URGE, AOL, Charter, iMesh, HMV, and many more.
Beginning in the third quarter of 2007, those partners will have the option of selling DRM-free music tracks from major label EMI as well as labels represented by the Digital Rights Agency (DRA), Independent Recording Industry Services (IRIS), and Digital Music Group, Inc. (DMG). And, following Apple’s lead to offer DRM-free music at higher bitrates than “standard” DRM-protected music, MusicNet will offer the DRM-free music at “higher sound quality.”
“Interoperability has been a sore spot for the digital music industry since inception and continues to grow as devices become more widely used,” said Alan McGlade, President and CEO of MediaNet Digital, in a release. “The digital music industry has been built on the appeal of the MP3 format—an open, standardized format which is usable on every digital music player, desktop computer, electronic device and gaming system. The music labels making these first million tracks available for unencrypted download will help fuel alternative mechanisms of accessing digital music giving consumers a choice in how they interact with their music.”
MusicNet’s complete catalog consists of 4.5 million tracks; the company’s unencrypted offerings will leverage the same infrastructure, giving partners a solid base to stand on if they choose to offer DRM-free music.
So far, EMI remains the only major label to embrace DRM-free distribution, although other music distributors are certainly facing pressure to do the same—and are no doubt watching EMI’s digital sales figures very closely to see if the company’s DRM-free gamble pays off.