Jazz label joins the DRM-free revolution
Record label Universal Music Classics & Jazz is making its entire catalogue available online without copying protections as part of an experiment to gauge fans’ demand for MP3 tracks
The trial means Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, Handel’s Water Music, Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World and recent recordings such as The Fron Choir’s Voices of the Valley will be available free of the copy protection known as DRM (digital rights management).
UCJ, home to the music industry’s biggest collection of classical and jazz recordings, said the trial on www.classicsandjazz.co.uk will explore the appetite for DRM-free “open” MP3s – which can be played on a full range of devices including MP3 players, mobile phones and Apple’s iPod.
It said the open MP3s will cost the same as existing files, and anyone who has already bought an album from the site will be offered a free upgrade.
“By making our entire catalogue available in an open MP3 format we will have the opportunity to assess the level of demand, the effect on the wider music download market and of course whether we will have a problem with piracy,” says Dickon Stainer, managing director of Universal Music Classics & Jazz.
UCJ launched its online music store in January in response to what UCJ describes as “a dramatic upturn in downloading of jazz and classical repertoire”.
The experiments with DRM-free tracks come as the music industry has been battling falling sales for years. Digital downloads have been growing fast but have not made up for the fall in CD sales.
The music industry had generally insisted on copy protection due to a fear of piracy. But in April, the consensus was broken by EMI, which started offering DRM-free tracks in better audio quality at a higher price.
Universal, the world’s biggest music company and UCJ’s parent, then said in August that it would make thousands of tracks available as DRM-free digital downloads in a six-month experiment to test demand.
UCJ said this three-month trial marks the first time that DRM-free versions of Universal tracks are available in the UK.