Wal-Mart to record labels: Ditch DRM!

Wal-Mart has reportedly demanded that the major labels release more of their catalog in DRM-free MP3 format, apparently buoyed by the relative success of their DRM-free MP3 store (at least when compared to the red-ink-fest that is every DRM music store except, perhaps, iTunes).
In a bid for more of the digital download space, the brick-and-mortar retailer heavyweight has reportedly given an ultimatum to some of the largest record labels, including Warner Music Group and Sony BMG Music Entertainment, to provide more of their respective music catalogs in MP3 format (that is, without DRM) next year.
Link (Thanks, Glyn!)


  1. The market prevails! To put it succinctly, “w00t!”

    But then there’s the whole issue of the fine print; will the language be similar to UMG’s new classical music store that sells 320CBR files but says that “This Content may be owned by [Retailer] or by third parties”?

    And furthermore, you can bring into question Wal-Mart’s other media related practices, like not carrying CDs that have a “Parental Advisory” sticker on the front.

    We can’t just be trading one monopoly for another, right? :)

  2. If not even big retailers support DRM lobbists… than who’s left?

    From other post one could assume… Canadian goverment!

  3. It seems Wal-Mart may be both hero an villain, if we are to believe this article:


    Quote: “[W]hy don’t labels adapt to the changing nature of distribution by selling new albums online as soon as they’re finished, before they have a chance to leak, and release the physical CDs a couple months later?” Well, for one, labels are still obsessed with Billboard chart numbers – they’re obsessed with determining the market value of their product by how well it fares in its opening week. Selling it online before the big retail debut, before they’ve had months to properly market the product to ensure success, would mess up those numbers (nevermind that those numbers mean absolutely nothing anymore). Additionally, selling an album online before it hits stores makes retail outlets (who are also suffering in all this) angry, and retail outlets have far more power than they should. For example, if a record company releases an album online but Wal-Mart won’t have the CD in their stores for another two months (because it needs to be manufactured), Wal-Mart gets mad. Who cares if Wal-Mart gets mad, you ask? Well, record companies do, because Wal-Mart is, both mysteriously and tragically, the largest music retailer in the world. That means they have power, and they can say “if you sell Britney Spears’ album online before we can sell it in our stores, we lose money. So if you do that, we’re not going to stock her album at all, and then you’ll lose a LOT of money.” That kind of greedy business bullshit happens all the time in the record industry, and the consistent result is a worse experience for consumers and music lovers.

    So at least if we’re to believe this article, Wal-Mart must carry a lot of the blame for why we don’t have the kind of e-music store we want already.

  4. Someone at Wal-Mart read “The Long Tail” and realized that they could benefit from infinite shelf space and by making it easier for customers to buy things, which of course makes it easier to sell things.

    This is one of those (rare? but I don’t have numbers to back it up) cases where business advantage actually benefits the consumer.

  5. Wonderful! Now perhaps they could offer their workers a decent living!

    I don’t have sympathy for the invisible hand of the market when it’s been slapping people silly for so long.

    And why are we hoping for the revitalization of the major label system, exactly?

  6. They’d be wise to listen. I did iTunes for a while because I wanted to get digital music legally, but I’ve started buying my music at Amazon strictly because I get music that I can just play where I want.

    PC, at home or work? Plays fine.

    MP3 player I got on impulse because it was cheap a few years ago? Plays fine.

    Wife’s ipod? Plays fine.

    Media capable phone? Plays fine.

    So, I said goodbye to DRM. Can’t buy what I want as an unlocked MP3? Then I just won’t buy it.

  7. “the red-ink-fest that is every DRM music store except, perhaps, iTunes)”

    “Perhaps” iTunes?? Does BB know something it isn’t sharing?

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