Record labels are beginning to let consumers pick what format music comes in
The recording industry has long fought against the popular MP3 music format, which is a favorite among computer users. Due to potential piracy issues, the bigger record labels were relatively slow in trying to adapt to the technology. Industry analysts, however, say that change may be on the horizon -- companies want to look at new ways of delivering digital music to the consumers.
It wasn't very long ago when the term MP3 seemed to be taboo among major record labels. As music and file sharing continues to progress, record labels and music vendors are beginning to realize that they may have to make room for more flexible options.
For example, EMusic offers 1.5 million songs that are all encoded in MP3 format that include no digital rights management (DRM) technology. And more record labels are beginning to test consumer interest in legal MP3 downloads. Yahoo Music ran several promotions that offered MP3-encoded songs from several artists, with approval from record labels. EMI has officially declined to comment if the company will test the MP3 market in 2007, but analysts believe the record company has something up its sleeve.
Another online music portal, Beatport, sells music from independent labels only. The site offers music in 320k/s MP3, MP4 and raw WAV files, but charges double (or triple) what some of its DRM-friendly competitors charge. Nevertheless, the site has become the largest retailer of electronic and dance music in the U.S. in less than 3 years. Yet even with all its success, Beatport has still never managed to push beyond the realm of independent labels.
The major MP3 distribution sites that do not offer DRM on major label artists are slowly dwindling. AllofMP3, the recent focus of heavy RIAA litigation, had its credit card portals ganked in October 2006. Kazaa, a peer-to-peer distribution network, was forced to settle with U.S. labels last year over copyright infringement charges.
Distribution networks like Yahoo Music are giving users more choices when it comes to music without DRM, sources that have relied on completely free DRM distribution of major label titles have all failed due to copyright infringement problems.
The trials by EMI and Yahoo are important steps in a still evolving industry, but until there is something equivalent to a mini-revolution in the music industry, do not be surprised if MP3s are still primarily excluded from music vendors in 2007.