Wal-Mart Ditches DRM… And Lots Of Major Label Music With It

from the so-long,-goodbye dept

Over the last few months, the meme has taken hold that the big record labels had finally come to terms with the fact that DRM didn’t help and only frustrated users — and was finally okay with getting rid of it entirely. That sounds good, but it appears that the labels are still having trouble letting go. Wal-Mart’s online download store has finally abandoned selling any DRM’d tracks, but with it, it’s lost almost all music from major labels like Sony/BMG and Warner Music. Considering that some really major acts appear on both labels, this seems like a rather huge limitation of the Wal-Mart online store which should be trying to present a rather strong front against iTunes. It’s unclear who’s at fault here. Wired blames Wal-Mart for launching the DRM-free store before it was really ready, but there’s an equal chance that the fault is on the part of the record labels who still don’t seem completely comfortable with finally killing off DRM.

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Companies: sony bmg, wal-mart, warner music

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Comments on “Wal-Mart Ditches DRM… And Lots Of Major Label Music With It”

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28 Comments
Ima Fish (profile) says:

“It’s unclear who’s at fault here.”

No fault, simply arrogance. Wal-mart decided to open an online DRM-free music store. Being the 2-ton gorilla it is, it saw no reason to work out deals with the music industry. It will create the store and require DRM-free music or it will simply refuse to sell it.

And of course the music industry is arrogant for not recognizing the failure of DRMed music in the first place.

Since the major labels are licensing Amazon DRM-free music, it’s only a matter of time before Wal-mart gets it too. So in the end Wal-mart will win out over the labels.

discojohnson says:

Re: Re:

I’m thinking you’re on the mark. Walmart knows its market share on every front, and probably recognizes that it’s not worth taking tech support calls for DRM related issues constantly, which is only making Walmart less relevant in the online music store industry. Kudos to Walmart for having enough sack to do it. Walmart is about driving prices down constantly, and this is just another way to make that happen. Look at what happened when Walmart decided to start carrying big screen tvs: the manufacturers were being forced to make even cheaper entry-level displays; or when Walmart dropped loads of magazines–just not enough money in it and the money makers were kept. The labels will play ball because in the end, they don’t want Walmart to decide to carry even less music on their shelves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Another Perspective

Is it possible that this is Wal-Mart’s way of telling the labels, “You license DRM-free music to us, or you lose your access to our customers”? In which case, I applaud them. If they are indeed the 600-pound gorilla, then I have no problem with them using their muscle to force the issue. It’s a gamble, but I think the labels need them more than they need the labels.

snowburn14 says:

Re: Another Perspective

“Is it possible that this is Wal-Mart’s way of telling the labels, “You license DRM-free music to us, or you lose your access to our customers”? “

I didn’t think there was any other way of interpreting this… I mean, it may be other things as well – like the tech support issues discojohnson mentioned – but that would still be just part of the whole ‘get rid of DRM or else’ message.

Joel Coehoorn says:

Apple sells music at a loss to get people to buy iPods. Walmart sells music for less than Apple ($.88US). So unless Wal-mart got a much better deal out of the labels (which I guess is possible, but unlikely), they also sell music at a loss, and presumably for the same reason: to sell mp3 players. So why should Wal-mart continue to lose money selling music when Apple and Amazon are perfectly willing to do that part for them? Wal-mart has iPods, after all.

Online Music Buyer says:

It's what they do.

This is no different than what Wal*Mart does with all of their suppliers. You want to sell to WM? You’ve got to play by their rules. If not, WM won’t sell your goods and your company will lose tremendous market share. Usually, this is regarded as a bad thing as it can squash out the small-market, ‘mom & pop-style’ suppliers.

But since most of us geeks want to see high quality, DRM-free music available online, this is a good thing. WM may not have as big of an online presence as some other stores, but they’re still absolutely a dominant force for consumer sales in general. Just like when you watched your class bully overstep his bounds and get beat up by some older kid, I’m delighted to see WM put some pressure on the record labels. Go get ’em, smiley-face of doom!

Oh, and drop your lawsuit against the brain-damaged woman already.

Rose M. Welch says:

But you still have to install shit to buy it...

…I never purchased music from WM because of the DRM… But not everything is available on Amazon. I finally gave in today and went to find a song that I love from WM. I figured I’d burn it to a disk, delete all, and rip it from the disc to remove the DRM… And then I saw that they now only sell DRM-free mp3s! I was ecstatic…

Until I tried to buy the song I was looking for and was told that my computer needed an ‘update’ to purchase the music. The ‘update’ consists of a vaguely described installation that seems to have something to do with downloading the song. That’s really all it tells you. And the average consumer really will believe that they’re getting an ‘update’ and go blithely along.

I would rather pay 9 bucks for the whole album with the song I want than have thier shit on my computer.

Anne (profile) says:

Re: Re: But you still have to install shit to buy it...

You don’t have to install the Amazon Mp3 app in order to download their music. I’ve been rotting my teeth and using Pepsi points to download free music from Amazon. The sound quality is better than Itunes and it really is genuinely DRM-free. However not all of Amazon’s MP3 songs can be paid for with Pepsi points.

Rose M. Welch says:

Re: Re: But you still have to install shit to buy it...

No, you don’t. That’s just dumb. You must not shop there at all.

You do have to have it to download an entire album at one time instead of clicking each song individually, but clicking each song individually is a very not big deal and for me (cable internet) it seems faster to click them individually.

So please check your facts before you post.

Rose M. Welch says:

That's not true at all.

No, you don’t. That’s just dumb. You must not shop there at all.

You do have to have it to download an entire album at one time instead of clicking each song individually, but clicking each song individually is a very not big deal and for me (cable internet) it seems faster to click them individually.

So please check your facts before you post.

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