Universal Music Group on Friday said that it will sell "thousands of its albums and tracks" without DRM for a limited time.
Universal said in a statement that its test will run from August and January and track "consumer demand, price sensitivity and piracy in regards to the availability of open MP3s." And then when Universal finds that demand increases it'll ditch DRM permanently (I added that last part).
But the writing is on the album cover (more on Techmeme). EMI is already doing the DRM-free dance. And others will follow. Sure Apple CEO Steve Jobs may have prodded things a little but DRM's days are limited.
If the Universal and EMI experiments go well--and they probably will--other labels will view DRM as the handicap it is. Universal will also use Google's AdWords to drive traffic to the DRM-free downloads.
Universal was sure to note that it "will continue to support innovative digital models such as subscription and ad-supported services which rely on DRM as an enabling technology."
Of course it will. For the music industry one big appeal of the DRM-free movement is that it may break Apple's dominance in the business.
In fact, this paragraph in the Universal statement is telling:
Participants including Google, Wal-Mart, Best Buy Digital Music Store, Rhapsody, Transworld, Passalong Networks, Amazon.com and Puretracks, will offer downloads to consumers in the DRM-free audio format of their choice in a variety of bit rates. For the most part, the DRM free downloads will be offered at standard wholesale prices.
One question: Where's Apple?