BusinessWeek is reporting that Sony BMG is getting ready to start offering digital music without DRM. According to people familiar with the matter, Sony BMG will offer at least a portion of its collection free of DRM sometime this quarter. If so, Sony BMG would join the other three major music labels (EMI, Vivendi and Warner Music Group) in doing so.
The move to abandon DRM is largely seen as a move by the labels to try to reduce Apple’s domination of the digital music download market. Instead, the labels are partnering with different retailers and offering various ways of letting customers purchase music (for example, variable pricing).
While Apple still has an impressive hold on the digital music download market (estimated to be as high as 80 percent), it will be interesting to see how that lead holds up as the labels begin to offer DRM-free music to Apple’s competitors (like Amazon MP3). Customers will now have more flexibility in buying music and transferring it more easily to a larger variety of devices. As such, they will be able to shop around more and will no longer be forced to shop at the online store designed specifically for their device.