The evidence that consumers like DRM-free music just keeps pouring in. The latest is a story from 7 Digital, a small online music store in the UK, which is reporting that DRM-free formats are outselling DRM-encumbered formats by a 4-to-1 margin. This isn't too surprising, given that DRM-encumbered music sold by anyone other than Apple won't play on the iPod, the world's most popular portable music player. Obviously, when given a side-by-side choice, the vast majority of consumers are going to choose the format that works everywhere. I suspect that name recognition is also a factor in MP3's favor: almost everyone has heard of MP3s, so someone who doesn't know anything else about digital formats or DRM is going to go with MP3 as a trusted "brand." One other interesting point in the article is that 7 Digital now has 60 percent of its music available in DRM-free formats, and expects to get that figure close to 100 percent by next summer. They appear to carry a wide variety of music from both major and independent labels. Until this year, iTunes was the only legal way to get your major-label music on your iPod. That was great for Apple, but not so good for the major labels. Now that the labels have come to their senses and started allowing DRM-free music sales, we're going to see, for the first time, a genuinely competitive market for online music with a lot of different music stores, all carrying both major-label and independent fare, and all selling music that will work with any device. Apple's music store will finally have to compete on its merits, rather than being propped up by its DRM monopoly. It's an exciting time to be a music fan.
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