7digital offer music from all labels DRM-free

7digital this morning hosted a high profile media event during which it unveiled a range of high-powered initiatives and launched for business into the US and across more of Europe.

Leading the announcements came news 7digital has reached a deal with Sony BMG to offer music from that label DRM-free in MP3 format – all the four million songs sold through the service are now available DRM-free in MP3.

This is highly significant, and means 7digital is the first digital music store in Europe to offer downloads from all four major labels, Sony BMG, Universal Music, Warner Music and EMI Records.

Tracks are sold free of DRM rights restriction as high-quality (320kbps) MP3 files – better quality than offered by iTunes Plus.

7digital will upgrade all previously purchased Sony BMG tracks to the MP3 format. Previously purchased music in WMA format will be upgraded to MP3 for free.

Ben Drury, CEO of 7digital.com said, “We are extremely happy to be the first and only digital media company providing a full catalogue of MP3 music for the increasing number of people who are using the internet to download music onto different devices. The high-quality DRM-free MP3 format is what digital music consumers have been waiting for.  It is a universal download format that can be copied and played on multiple devices including iPods, iPhones, Blackberries and other devices.

“Consumers see DRM as somewhat of a hindrance when purchasing legal digital music. The availability of all of the big four music labels in high-quality MP3 is fantastic news for the UK music fan – everything they now buy from us they can be sure will work on all their devices. We’ve seen a huge increase in sales since making MP3 downloads available on 7digital.com.”

To mark that its entire catalogue is now available DRM-free, the service is offering a range of selected albums (from Queen, the Magic Numbers, Sigur Ros and others) for sale at prices as low as £2 – and is also offering two albums for free download. The first features a sample of artists from EMI Music’s extensive catalogue and the second is a selection of top acts from 7digital indiestore.

After seeing some success in the UK, 7digital has also now opened for business across Europe and the US – story here.

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40 thoughts on “7digital offer music from all labels DRM-free

  1. Matt Carve

    “Tracks are sold free of DRM rights restriction as high-quality (320kbps) MP3 files – better quality than offered by iTunes Plus.”

    I’d like to point out that iTunes plus offers song tracks at 256 kbps but these are AAC files, not MP3’s. Thus a 256 kbps ACC is actually a much better sounding file than a 320 kbps MP3.

  2. Bazza Wong

    “256 kbps ACC is actually a much better sounding file than a 320 kbps MP3” , really uhuh.
    Stop being such an Apple Fanboy Twat.
    Your statement is utterly ridiculous and without merit.

  3. Nate

    “256 kbps ACC is actually a much better sounding file than a 320 kbps MP3”.

    This true. The encoding of AAC produces higher quality audio than MP3. Fact is not Rabid fanboy Twat. Stop being ignorant.

  4. Jonny Post author

    Now Now, leave yer handbags at the door here, please. Let’s face it, the encoding is about the same for iTunes Plus, but far, far better than the majority of iTunes content, which isn’t iTunes Plus yet. Personally, I think the compression 7digital has here sounds better than iTunes pLus, but that’s only a subjective opinion. In addition to which, DRM on any music makes for an inferior product.
    FiNALLY: given that Apple already offers film and TV for download, why, why, oh why isn’t there a lossless audio service, good as CD, free of DRM?

  5. CompMaster

    AAC has been a recognized superior compression schema for almost a decade now-grow up. Just the notion that mp3’s can be “high-quality” is a stretch. ANY compression codec is going to involve some compromise. Gimme FLAC…

  6. macg

    The mp3 vs aac argument only really applies at lower bit-rates. Once you get above 224 you have essentially reached transparency. Nobody bothers doing double-blind, volume controlled tests at that level because essentially no one can tell the difference.

    If you think you can, it’s just ‘placebo’ as one tester discovered when he concluded CD was better than 256 only to realize that he had set up the switches and they were both 256. You think it ought to be better so your brain makes it better.

    A few dollars on better equipment is going to make a far bigger difference.

    Feel free to disagree, and point me in the direction of the scientific double-blind experiment that says different.

  7. oomu

    aac is of course technically superior to mp3

    and aac is NOT apple format, it’s Dolby format and a mpeg one classified.

    so if you hate apple, you can still love aac.

    to 320kbps (mp3) and 256kbps (aac), the quality is mostly the same, but not the size, so it’s why with time, everyone (and my dog) will use aac.

    the cost for business is mostly the same once you paid MPEG LA.

  8. Orenge

    I welcome this new option! I buy most of my music either via iTunes Plus or Amazon (with regular iTunes only as a last resort).

    I don’t like the 320k MP3 format, though. That storage space adds up! The benefit of MP4 (a.k.a. AAC) is that it can achieve the same quality as MP3 in less disk space. At 320k MP3, 1000 songs in your pocket can become only 400!

    > “Personally, I think the compression 7digital has here sounds better than iTunes pLus, but that’s only a subjective opinion. In addition to which, DRM on any music makes for an inferior product.”

    Just a reminder that iTunes Plus does NOT have DRM. It’s a shame most labels are so afraid of Apple’s power that they won’t allow Apple to sell more iTunes Plus content.

    Until they give in on that, our 256 MP4 options are limited. So bring on these new MP3 sources!

  9. mjtomlin

    “Stop being such an Apple Fanboy Twat.
    Your statement is utterly ridiculous and without merit.”

    Any tool knows that AAC is a better compression algorithm. This has nothing to do with Apple. AAC is a standard specification, it’s not an Apple technology and is supported by many players other than iPod/iTunes.

    Apple originally chose to use it because you can achieve a higher quality at a lower bit rate, which was a better choice back in the day when storage space was an issue.

  10. Jonny Post author

    Thing is, people, what I think is most important about this news isn’t the compression system used – in terms of audio quality I still think iTunes Plus and the 7digital MP3 will sound the same, but accept the file size observations – no – what is important is the debut of DRM-free downloads from all the majors across Europe. That’s highly significant to music fans here, and could well be the thin end of a wedge of such moves from other services, and that’s great for choice and diversity.

  11. Jon T

    So, when are those IDIOT music companies going to allow us to buy DRM free from the worlds FAVOURITE music store?

    They need to be shot for denying this to Apple.

    And good luck to 7digital..

  12. Derek Giromini

    What’s happening here is that the RIAA is playing the same game that their cousins in the DVD realm have done for the last few years. This is no different from the Platinum Extended Special Edition DVDs of several popular films and television series that will likely appear on shelves come holiday time.

    The labels have been unsuccessful with tearing down Apple’s dominance in the digital music player market, so they are hopping from service to service, working with the newest hot service to offer a better digital capture of masters or remasters. They will make money by luring people to spend more money on music they already own. At the same time, they will gradually choke the CD supply, so that fewer people will get the chance to rip their own high-quality digital captures of that music. (Yes, I know a rip from a master will always be better than a rip from a CD, but who thinks about that?)

    That no one else offers AAC is no surprise. While it’s a superior format, it has unfortunately (and perhaps purposely) been portrayed as “Apple’s format.” Offering AACs means you are offering music that — to much frustration — can only be played on iPods. The RIAA won’t let that happen, so non-Apple services must offer the sometimes inferior — and definitely outdated — MP3 format. Never mind that iPods still outsell most if not all other players combined.

    As an aside, I think Apple is getting to a point where it is behaving monopolist, so I don’t see the MP3 end run as a terrible thing. I wish they could work something out with other companies to offer AACs without DRM at at least 256Kbps across the board, but it won’t happen. At least it appears the future of music is at a stalemate, with neither Apple — the dominant seller of music players — and the RIAA wearing the pants.

  13. Lou Kash

    Quote: “high-quality (320kbps) MP3 files – better quality than offered by iTunes Plus”

    Some time ago I wanted to know about the differences in compression quality. So I ripped a track off a CD and exported it to different compression formats and bit rates. Then I reimported the tracks into an audio editor with a sonograph function (Amadeus Pro, for those who want to know) and compared the results.

    Compare for yourself:

    The MP3 encoder cuts off nearly all audio above 16 kHz, even at 320 kbps. Technically speaking, that’s anything else but “high fidelity”, if you ask me. Now… that won’t bother you much if you’re over thirty years old, because your audible frequency spectrum will end at approx. that level. But the young folks will likely hear the difference – unless they already have ruined their ears, that is… 🙂
    So why waste bandwidth and storage space with 320 kbps MP3?

    In other words: Now that we have finally overcome the “CPU Mega-/Gigahertz Myth”, welcome to the “Audio Compression Bitrate Myth”…

    (As a side note: looking at the graphs, OGG seems to be a format even superior to AAC.)

  14. Monfresh

    Given that disk space keeps getting cheaper every year, people should be focusing on being able to buy the highest quality possible rather than which format allows for most songs on a hard drive. As a DJ, I shop exclusively at digital music stores that offer WAV downloads (like beatport.com and stompy.com). If I’m paying for a song, I want the best quality available, especially if I’m going to be playing it on a decent sound system in a club. The difference between a 320 mp3 and a WAV file is readily apparent in a club. The mp3s almost always sound way too shrill and lack bass. And i’ve also noticed that a 320 mp3 from one store will not always sound the same as a 320 mp3 from another store, even if it’s the same song. There are too many variables when you’re compressing audio since not everyone uses the same encoders and bit rates. When you have a WAV file, you’re certain that you’re getting the mastered file directly from the record label.

  15. Monfresh

    Once you have the WAV file, you can always convert it to your favorite format for your portable devices. But you still have the full-quality file to fall back on in case you want to convert to another format later on.

  16. David C

    Heaven forbid that the companies reduce the supply of CD’s for classical music – all these 4 minute mp3 files are fine for 4 minute tracks, but unfortunately Wagner’s tracks are as long as a couple of hours – and experience of trying to download opera from websites shows that you get 15 4 minutes files that play back with 14 microgaps on any CD you try to burn – till the websites work out how to join tracks totally seamlessly I shan’t be joining the mp3 revolution.

  17. Anthony

    This is truly brilliant!! DRM is killing Windows (which that much of a bad thing), but I use Linux anyway and it’s great to be able to get MP3 format rather than crippled WMA downloads.

    DRM does nothing other than infuriate legitmate purchases, because all the people who copy are already sharing and playing with no hassles using cracked copies anyway, and personally I’d rather pay for mine, but if I’m going to, I don’t want the hassle of failed DRM authentications, not being able to play on Linux etc. etc.

    Well done 7digital, you have my support, I just purchased over 2GB of music from you 🙂

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