Thursday, December 27, 2007

Staunchest Opponent of Freeing Music Makes a Deal With Apple iTunes

On Thursday, Internet retail giant Amazon announced the availability of Warner Music Groups on its Amazon MP3 store. The store, which boasts a library of up to 2.9 million songs, sells generic MP3 files encoded at a 256 Kbps bit rate that can play on a wide variety of music devices, such as Apple's iPod and iPhone as well as Microsoft's Zune players. Details as to exactly how much of Warner's catalog will be available have yet to be released, although representatives stated that the store will carry album bundles complete with exclusive tracks. Amazon did not elaborate on whether these bundles will require shoppers to buy whole albums or can be broken up into individual song purchases.The move marks a significant departure from Warner's traditional approach to online music sales, the media giant being one of the staunchest opponents of freeing music from copy protection. Earlier this year, chief executive Edgar Bronfman earned notoriety from a segment of the online community by attacking Apple head Steve Jobs for suggesting that removing copy protection was the only true solution to interoperability between music stores. The"Consumers want flexibility with respect to what they can do with music once they purchase it, and we want them to have that flexibility," says the label's Senior VP of Digital Strategy, Michael Nash. "We believe that giving consumers the assurance that the music they purchase can be played on any device they own will only encourage more sales of music."No word has been received as to similar offerings made to iTunes, eMusic or other online music stores for Warner to offer some or all of its collection in unprotected formats. The move does, however, rival an approach being tried by rival Universal Music, which consciously excluded Apple from its non-DRM music trial. The experiment is formally designed to use Apple as a controlling factor to gauge response but is unofficially believed to be an attempt to undermine Apple's dominance of online music sales and obtain greater flexibility in pricing.

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