Amazon says it’s going to take its DRM-free music store “global” this year. But Universal Music Group, the globe’s biggest music label, isn’t on board yet.
Last summer UMG joined EMI in selling DRM-free MP3s at Amazon’s music store, in a bid to create a rival to Apple’s iTunes. Sony-BMG and Warner Music Group (WMG) have followed suit. But UMG, a unit of the Vivendi conglomerate, has always described the DRM-free sales as a “test” which is supposed to expire soon.
And asked about the test’s results yesterday at the Midem music conference, Vivendi CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy refused to commit his company to Amazon, according to PaidContent: “We don’t want to make too many comments at this stage – we are still watching and, in time, we will make some decisions.”
Conventional wisdom is that DRM-free tracks are a done deal, and we’ll see them at every digital music store within a year or so. But UMG execs have insisted that they’re not sure, and have been poring over data from last fall’s digital sales to see what effect DRM-free sales had on both revenue and piracy: They’re curious to see, for instance, how many of the Amazon tracks they sold end up copied and distributed via P2P networks.
But best to view Levy’s statement as a public negotiation, just like Amazon’s odd press release about its global rollout plans, sent out about 12 hours after Levy’s comments. The two players have dovetailed interests: Amazon needs the label because UMG’s digital market share is even bigger than it’s physical market share, and UMG desperately needs a competitor to iTunes.
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