Sony BMG Music Entertainment will crack open the door to its music vaults on Jan. 15, taking the DRM copy-prevention wrapper off a limited selection of downloadable tracks. The tracks will be offered in MP3 format, without DRM (digital rights management), from Jan. 15 in the U.S. and from late January in Canada.
To obtain the Sony-BMG tracks, would-be listeners will first have to go to a retail store to buy a Platinum MusicPass, a card containing a secret code, for a suggested retail price of $12.99. Once they have scratched off the card’s covering to expose the code, they will be able to download one of just 37 albums available through the service, including Britney Spears’ “Blackout” and Barry Manilow’s “The Greatest Songs of the Seventies.”
In contrast, online retailer iTunes Store has around 2 million DRM-free tracks in the AAC format supported by its iPod and many mobile phones. No store visit is necessary to download those tracks, and an album typically sells for $9.99 or less.
Apple started offering tracks from EMI without DRM for a small premium sinc elast May, later bringing the price down to the same $0.99 it charges for other tracks with DRM. Amazon followed suit in September, selling unprotected MP3 files from EMI and Universal. Warner joined them on Dec. 28.
So, what is Sony BMG actually waiting for? One of just 37 albums? That’s just simply a joke.