Universal Music Group follows others to offer DRM free MP3s following

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The Universal Music Group, one of the four major record labels, is continuing the testing of digital sales of tracks and albums without digital rights management by making thousands of its albums and tracks available from its digital repertoire in MP3 form without DRM enabling, for a limited time.

This follows Apple CEO Steve Jobs's push for DRM-free music last February, in which he urged music labels to drop the DRM-encoded MP3s in a move to let consumers transfer songs between devices. EMI and eMusic have both begun selling DRM-free format this past spring, as has Amazon.com and OtherMusic.com.

The Universal experiment will run from August to January and analyze such factors as consumer demand, price sensitivity and piracy in regards to the availability of open MP3s. The Universal MP3s can be played on a full range of devices including dedicated MP3 players, mobile phones and the iPod.

Albums and tracks that will be available during this test run the gamut from artists such as Amy Winehouse, Fall Out Boy, 50 Cent, Black Eyed Peas, Daddy Yankee, Gwen Stefani, Maroon 5, Dr. Dre, Shania Twain, Prince, Bing Crosby, Stevie Wonder, Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline.

Participants including Google, Wal-Mart, Best Buy Digital Music Store, Rhapsody, Amazon.com and Puretracks, will offer downloads to consumers in the DRM-free audio format in a variety of bit rates. For the most part, the DRM-free downloads will be offered at standard wholesale prices.

As part of this test, Universal will also be driving traffic to DRM-free downloads using Google's AdWords advertising program. Google ads will connect consumers directly to digital retailer gBox Inc.√°download store.

In addition, DRM-free downloads will also be available through artist and label-branded Web sites, including sum41.com, evefans.com, www.common-music.com, ryan-adams.com, dianakrall.com, defjam.com, islandrecords.com and classicsandjazz.co.uk.

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