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Universal Music Launches DRM-Free Music Test

8/10/2007 11:44:00 AM Eastern

New York — Universal Music Group (UMG), a music industry leader, is planning a limited-time test of digital sales of music tracks and albums unprotected by digital rights management (DRM) software.

The program is a continuation of a series of tests performed by the company intended to “provide valuable insights into the implications of selling our music in an open format,” said Doug Morris, chairman and CEO of UMG in a release.

According to UMG, the program will run from August to January and the company will use the results of the experiment to analyze consumer demand, price sensitivity, piracy and other factors in regards to the availability of open MP3s. It noted in a release that “regardless of the outcome of these tests, UMG will continue to support innovative digital models such as subscription and as-supported services which rely on DRM as an enabling technology.”

UMG’s DRM-free music will be available through a variety of sources including Google, Wal-Mart, Best Buy Digital Music Store, Rhapsody, Transworld, Passalong Networks, Amazon.com and Puretracks. The company said participants will offer downloads to consumers in the DRM-free audio format of their choice in a variety of bit rates and that in most cases, the DRM-free downloads will be offered at standard wholesale prices.

Releases from Best Buy and Rhapsody each confirmed that their customers will be able to download UMG’s DRM-free music at the same prices that they’d pay for protected music.

UMG also plans to drive traffic to DRM-free downloads via Google’s AdWords advertising program. According to a release, Google ads will connect consumers directly to the gBox download store.

Finally, UMG will also make DRM-free downloads available through a variety of artist and label-branded Web sites including www.sum41.com, www.evefans.com, www.ryan-adams.com and more.

During the test, music will be made available from a wide variety of artists including Amy Winehouse, Fall Out Boy, 50 Cent, Mika, Dr. Dre, Elvis Costello, Reba McEntire, Johnny Cash and others.

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