In a partnership with Universal Music Group, Amazon appears to be the next company trying to challenge Apple’s glossy, steely grip on digital music sales. Amazon has declined to comment directly, but sources claim that Universal, the largest record label in existence, has handed Amazon DRM-free versions of much of its classical music back catalogue.
With Apple’s only announced DRM-free ally being the comparatively puny EMI, this could become the largest blow to its industry dominance since the American Idol music store went DRM-free.
With the industry power of Universal and EMI coming out in support of unlocked MP3 files, the pressure is on for smaller major labels to follow suit and provide simple, DRM-free downloads that won’t confuse our parents. Both Apple and Amazon are reportedly in contract negotiations with labels of all sizes that are expected to continue through the summer, so it certainly appears that, in spite of what many labels are saying publicly, the DRM-free game is being played for keeps.
A source claimed earlier this week, though, that the assumptions being made about the Universal/Amazon partnership are “way off the mark.” There’s still a fighting chance, then, that this story will make me look like a fool in a few months.