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.