Walmart has issued a memo to all music licensing partners and informed them that the digital music store at “mp3.walmart.com” will be shutting down on August 28, 2011. All music content will no longer be available for download and users are urged to download DRM-free tracks before becoming unavailable. After the store closes up, tracks containing DRM will still be supported and will continue to work as the DRM servers are being kept online. DRM-enabled tracks will be available in WMV format and contain the same device restrictions as when purchased.
The digital side of the retailer opened up in 2004 in an attempt to undercut the prices for music on Apple’s iTunes. Single tracks sold for 88 cents on the Walmart music store while Apple charged 99 cents. Walmart was also one of the first music companies to offer legal DRM-free tracks encoded at 256kbps in 2007. However, adoption rates of the iPod and iPhone helped Apple quickly outpace both digital and physical music sales at Walmart by 2008. By 2010, Walmart’s share of the digital music industry had fallen to less than one percent behind Amazon, Rhapsody and Napster while Apple reigned supreme at 66 percent of the market.
Walmart was quick to stress that the closure of the digital store doesn’t effect physical sales of music within brick and mortar storefronts. They went on to note that Walmart Soundcheck will remain open for live streaming of music. The most frequent criticisms of Walmart’s music store were usually directed at poor software interfaces and the increasing amount of censorship within the catalog. Walmart’s long standing policy of only carrying edited versions of albums with parental advisories drove users to other alternatives like iTunes. iTunes, as well as other music services like Spotify, give the user a choice between the two versions of the album.