It's over. The last major label to hold out on selling DRM-free MP3s, Sony BMG, is "finalizing plans" to sell music not locked down with DRM. It'll be available sometime in the first quarter, apparently in time to get in on Amazon and Pepsi's 1 billion song giveaway, which now looks like it'll have tracks from every major label. So, how'd we get here?
We've been saying for a while DRM has cancer (is a cancer?), dying a long, drawn out death—cue Frucci's "DRM Deathwatch" meme. EMI's move was characterized as a desperate ploy by the weakest label—hence, it ran with iTunes, something we've been told the other labels wouldn't have even sniffed at because of the dreaded iTunes hegemony (more on that in a sec).
But then Universal, the biggest label in the world, jumped. In large part to cut at iTunes, true. Regardless, the tide had turned. Warner and Sony BMG were wary holdouts. After Warner joined the party, Sony BMG really had little choice—it pretty much had to go open or go home, so we've been expecting this.
It's no surprise Sony is throwing in with Amazon, either. Again, the fear of an iTunes paradigm is very real among the labels—if the last 10 years have taught us anything, they crave control more than money—and Amazon is in the best position to compete with iTunes. Especially now that it has something very powerful that iTMS doesn't—DRM-free tracks from every major label.
The online music market just got a whole lot more interesting. [Business Week]