June 24, 2024

Three Down, One to Go: Warner Music to Sell MP3s

Warner Music will sell music through Amazon’s online store without DRM (copy protection) technology, according to a New York Times story by Jeff Leeds. This is a big step for Warner, given that earlier this year Warner CEO Edgar Bronfman said that selling MP3s would be “completely without logic or merit.”

The next question is whether Warner will make a deal with Apple to sell MP3s on iTunes too. The NYT article says Warner plans to do so, but the LA Times implies the opposite. The two other majors that sell MP3s are split on this point, with EMI selling MP3s through multiple stores including iTunes, and Universal Music selling MP3s through other online stores but refusing to do so through iTunes. Is Warner willing to inconvenience its customers in order to undercut Apple?

By the way, the Times article makes a simple but common mistake, in saying that “the industry faces increasing pressure to bolster digital music sales as its traditional business — selling CDs — suffers a sharp decline.” CDs are digital too, and they lack DRM (attempts to add DRM to CDs failed disastrously), but news stories and commentary often ignore these facts. I guess “Warner to adopt another DRM-free digital format” wouldn’t seem quite so newsworthy.

Three of the four majors (all but SonyBMG) now sell MP3s. It’s only a matter of time before the last domino falls, and the industry can move on to the next stage in its evolution.


  1. Of course, “Warner to adopt another DRM-free digital format” isn’t the right headline. The newsworthy and correct heading ought to be: “Warner to expand DRM-free digital distribution from traditional plastic CDs to online.”

  2. CDs are made from plastic, and the record industry makes money by shipping little bits of plastic and paper to retailers to be sold. Sure, the format on that piece of plastic happens to be digital, but the transportation of said item most certainly is not.

    Demanding that when news stories clarify what they mean by “digital” is a bit like demanding people point out that all food is “organic”, or specifying that when someone says “global warming” they mean “human-caused global-warming”. Sure, it’s more accurate, but it’s pedantic, slows down comprehension, and anyone who’s actually paying attention to the debate already understands the difference.

    That said, I do wish that the newspaper people would quote a bit more from the anti-DRM side than they do, as it seems as though most journalists still accept DRM as a necessary evil, rather than as an evil with very little benefit for anyone. Even if they don’t believe the latter statement, they should at least present the argument.

  3. Yeah, I am also worried, like Alex Holst, that uncompressed music will die with low-quality mp3s surging. Give us lossless, please. I’d prefer Apple Lossless rather than FLAC, though, ’cause I got an iPod, but I using it could be more expensive than FLAC. Maybe FLAC, and we can just recompress to AL, same thing I guess.

  4. Why on Earth would Amazon restrict mp3 sales geographically? There’s no shipping, customs, or similar nonsense for them to contend with if they choose to “ship” internationally, and plenty of customer badwill if they refuse to do so. Purely-online stuff like file downloads should not discriminate on the basis of geography or nationality!

  5. That’s nice but where’s the online music store that sells FLAC to anyone on the planet? (As opposed to selling MP3 to the us only).

  6. Mitch Golden says

    Lest people think that a wave of sanity has washed over the music industry (or their lawyers) – no such luck. The RIAA is arguing that merely ripping a CD is illegal.

    “In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.”


    It seems to me that this would mean that an iPod is inherently illegal, since there is no way to get music onto it without first putting it onto a computer (even if the music was purchased at iTunes).

  7. Govt Skeptic says

    “…and the industry can move on to the next stage in its evolution.”

    Technically, I suppose extinction is a part of the process of evolution. Not sure though, you’d have to ask a specialist.

  8. Unfortunately, Amazon’s MP3s are USA-only.

  9. Per Jonsson says

    I don’t understand why they refuse to give ppl good services, there is “illegal” torrent sites in every block nowadays. And as long as the big companies doesn’t offer the same good service it won’t work.

    btw. Steal This Film Part II has been released and have some good input in the copyfight discussion.