Amazon Jumps Headfirst into DRM-Free Music Download Market with 12,000 Record LabelsS

Amazon's joining the ranks of DRM-free music distributors with the launch of an MP3-only download store that will offer "millions of songs" from "more than 12,000 record labels" with no copy protections whatsoever. Leading those labels, naturally, is the record industry's DRM-free town bicycle, EMI, who is curiously the only label mentioned by name of the 12,000, so we can bet no other majors are on board. Yet, anyway.

The MP3-only move is an obvious swipe at Apple, who is offering their DRM-free tracks in AAC. (Jeff Bezos: "Our MP3-only strategy means all the music that customers buy on Amazon is always DRM-free and plays on any device.")

Of course, a real swipe at Apple would be to offer the tracks for 99 cents, undercutting them by roughly 25 percent, but no price or launch date was mentioned by Amazon. Of course, you'll know when we do. Regardless, the music download market's starting to get real interesting.

Let's just hope Amazon has the balls to take it up a notch. Or rather, down a notch. 99 cents. Come on, guys, make yourselves a real competitor against iTunes and kick-start the market. The sooner we get this going, the better for all of us: consumers, distributors, the industry, and the artists.

Update: According to a rep, neither pricing nor other labels will be announced until launch "later this year." Looks like an end-of-the-month, surprise head-to-head showdown with Apple is out of the cards, so Amazon better have something slammin' up their sleeve with the lead time iTunes is going to have on them.

Press Release [Amazon]