February 13, 2008 / 12:37 PM / 11 years ago

Play.com to launch UK MP3 digital download store

LONDON (Reuters) - Online retailer Play.com is to launch a new UK download store called PlayDigital, offering music from EMI and independent labels as MP3 tracks which could be played on all digital devices including iPods.

The music industry had relied on digital rights management (DRM) as the cornerstone in its fight against illegal downloading but the labels are now offering tracks without the restrictive protection in an effort to increase digital sales.

PlayDigital will sell tracks and albums in the DRM-free MP3 format. Apple’s iTunes also sells EMI music at a higher price without DRM, but this is in the unprotected AAC format which plays on many digital devices but not all.

Online retailer Amazon has signed all four major music groups — Universal, Sony BMG, Warner Music Group and EMI — but it has yet to set a date for rolling this out in the UK.

The company said the average price for a PlayDigital track would be 70 pence ($1.37) with the top sellers at 65 pence, and it hopes to sign more labels to the service over time.

Play.com describes itself as Britain’s third most visited online retailer with over 7 million customers.

“What this shows is that new entrants into the digital music space are banking that digital rights management is not going to be around,” Jupiter Research analyst Mark Mulligan told Reuters on Wednesday.

“This move by Play.com to be DRM-free illustrates the trend.”

Wendy Snowdon, the head of PlayDigital, told Reuters they had avoided DRM because they believed the tide was turning against it.

“We believe DRM-free digital music is the way that digital music should have always been available because ... we think it is natural to the customer and what the customer wants.”

Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Paul Bolding

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