DRM-free music boosts online album sales

Counterintuitive to music industry thinking, maybe, but the market is speaking

Even if some of the major labels remain shy of them, actual data shows that paying music customers will buy non-DRM tracks at four times the rate they purchase music with digital rights management attached.

According to 7 Digital Media Ltd., DRM-free music downloads are outselling other formats that it offers by 4-to-1. Given the choice, consumers prefer MP3 DRM-free formats, explained the London-based retailer's Web site.

Good news, too, for the albums market, where DRM-free MP3 downloads are encouraging the purchase of digital album bundles, with 70% of MP3 downloads by value being albums. Physical album sales in the U.K. declined 20% this year.

It all adds up. The company observed that 78% of track and album downloads through its service are now in MP3 format, stripped of DRM.

7 Digital also confirmed that data rates and compression count, acknowledging that consumers "greatly prefer high-quality MP3s encoded at 320Kbit/sec." rather than WMA or AAC, the format offered by iTunes.

7digital.com also announced that more than 60% of its 3 million-strong music catalog is now available in DRM-free MP3 format and that it expects that proportion to increase to approach 100% by next summer.

"Consumers are a lot savvier than some people think, and [they] overwhelmingly choose MP3 over any other format when given the choice. MP3 is the only truly interoperable format that works with the iPod, most mobile phones -- including the iPhone -- and all MP3 players," said Ben Drury, managing director of 7digital.com.

"The MP3 format is also good for the music industry as a whole. As physical sales on the high street and online continue to drop, it is vital that labels find a way to increase digital album sales to make up the shortfall. In order for music industry revenues to flourish again, all four majors need to get on board and make music available to the consumer in the format of their choice," concluded Drury, who is also deputy chairman of the Entertainment Retailers Association.

This story, "DRM-free music boosts online album sales" was originally published by Macworld U.K..

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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