It seems that every man and his music download service is jumping on the DRM-free bandwagon recently. Amp3Digital and iTunes being great examples. Of course without the backing of record labels such as EMI, none of these services would have DRM-free content to distribute, so having more join the party is only a good thing.
The latest guest at the DRM-free table is Universal, albeit on a trial basis to determine how offering this service will affect it sales, levels of pirated music on the market and other such factors. No indication has yet been made as to which artists will be released initially, or if the entire catalogue will join the trial, but we hope the later.
What differentiates this from EMI’s announcement, is how the recent rift between Apple and Universal will bear on the way the latter’s music is sold. If you missed the news, Universal recently decided to forego renewing its long-term contract to sell music over iTunes, which won’t be getting DRM-free tracks.
Therefore it will be left to such online stores as Amazon and Rhapsody, among others, to offer the files up for download. If you happen to be using an iPod (and statistics show many of you do) that could cause you some frustration, but Universal says it wants to use iTunes as a control group to allow comparison of sales of unprotected versus protected tracks. If anyone who was considering pirating music while the trial is going on could please hold off so Universal gives this scheme the go ahead we'll be very grateful.