BusinessWeek learns, more than a month after Billboard reported it, that Sony-BMG plans to drop its DRM restrictions on its download sales as well. Following Warner Music Group’s announcement last month, this means that all four of the big music labels will now be offering their music sans DRM, at least at some outlets. What does it mean for the music business? Not much.
We remain unconvinced that DRM restrictions have had much, if any, impact on digital music sales. Our hunch is that this is a philosophical issue that bothers a handful of vocal folks, and that most consumers are unaware of the issue at all. We’ll be happy to revisit that stance once we see data from EMI or Universal Music Group, both of whom have been selling DRM-free tracks since last year.
The one real benefit to the DRM drop is that it gives the labels a small to break Apple’s stranglehold on the digital music business: Take away DRM and you give other music retailers – namely Amazon – the chance to sell music that works on Apple’s software and hardware. This is the real thrust behind the label’s change, and it’s not a terrible strategy. It’s too bad we didn’t see it years ago, when it might have really mattered.
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