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Universal has announced that it will test the market for DRM-free, high-quality downloads offering them through digital retailers including Rhapsody,, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Real Networks, Transworld, and PureTracks —but not the iTunes Music Store.

Universal will be selling the DRM-free downloads for 99 cents on other retail outlets instead of the $1.29 price for EMI’s high-quality, DRM-free music on iTunes.

According to sources, the label wanted to compare DRM-free sales from other outlets against protected sales from iTunes. Other sources conclude this is just simple a face off and that Universal wants to take away the iTunes monopoly by building more retail outlets for consumers. Universal refused to enter into any long-term licensing deals with iTunes, and opted for a month-to-month arrangement.

UMG says the test is designed to measure various factors such as consumer demand, price sensitivity and piracy effects of selling unprotected files versus those locked by DRM.

This is unknown territory — Will removing copyright protection increase sales? No one knows. I also  believe consumers will  typically gravitate to one site like iTunes when purchasing music. Regardless, this is just another step into the future.


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