Last year’s conventional wisdom: If the music business was going to survive, the labels were going to have drop the DRM locks from their digital downloads, and sell their stuff in unencrypted MP3 format. So they have: EMI began selling DRM-free tracks on Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes last spring, and Universal Music Group started up with Amazon (AMZN) last fall. Since then Warner Music Group and Sony-BMG have joined in as well.
So how are those tracks selling? Last spring EMI digital boss Barney Wragg told us that initial results from iTunes were very promising, but he couldn’t share details. We also heard murmurs out of EMI that MP3 tracks were selling 20% to 30% better than “locked” tracks. But Barney’s now out of EMI, and we haven’t heard a peep from that label or anyone else about sales data.
In the absence of any numbers, we’ll take an educated guess: We don’t think MP3s are selling much better than DRM’ed tracks. Why? Two reasons:
- There’s no evidence to show that overall digital download sales have ramped up significantly since EMI and UMG went to MP3s. If there was huge demand for these things, you’d expect to see a blip, at least.
- The labels are so starved for good news that if they did see any positive results from MP3 sales, we’d expect to have seen multiple press releases by now.
Plenty of caveats, the most important of which is that only EMI is selling DRM-free tracks at iTunes, which owns the digital download market. So even if sales were spiking at Amazon, it wouldn’t have a huge effect on overall sales. But then again, if they were selling well, we’d expect to hear about it. Anyone else heard anything? Let us know in comments below or at [email protected]