Please let this DRM-free madness stop. Just kidding.
Wal-Mart has become the latest company to jump on the DRM-free bandwagon in an attempt to reach iPod owners, and, with support from two of the majors, weaken the power that Apple has over the emerging online music industry.
Yesterday, Wal-Mart announced that its digital music download store will begin selling tracks without copy-protection software, including thousands of albums and songs from EMI and UMG (as part of the label’s recently announced DRM-free trial). Downloads will be offered as mp3s and at the higher bit-rate of 256kbps.
The “world’s largest retailer” isn’t making any bones about it’s intention to target iPod owners — DRM-free tracks are simply labeled as iPod-ready. However, the company’s download store faces many barriers to entry into this lucrative market, one of which is the mind-share that the iTunes Music Store has as the default destination within the iPod ecosystem. Worse still, Wal-Mart’s store is selling copy protected (Windows only) tracks which aren’t compaitble with the iPod, alongside its DRM-free offerings. This is sure to confuse customers and result in a very poor shopping experience.
Whatever challenges lay ahead for the growing number of DRM-free converts hoping to challenge Apple, one thing is for sure: the cat is well and truly out of the bag. If consumers weren’t aware of the pitfalls of Digital Management Rights software before, they are now.