Billboard magazine has done some fine sleuthing and turned up a number of developments in the works that may push the digital download world over the edge towards DRM-free MP3s. Walmart is reportedly pressuring the major record labels to allow it to sell their music online in MP3 format and now sources are telling Billboard that Amazon and Pepsi will team up to give away 1 billion MP3s for free in 2008, starting with a Superbowl kick off in February.
Amazon launched its DRM free MP3 music download service in September. We said it rocked then and I at least stand by that opinion today. Estimates at the time were that AmazonMP3 had about 2 million songs available - that number could increase substantially as labels feel the pressure of news like today's.
Unfortunately, of course there's a gimmick in the 1 billion song promotion - you'll have to buy 5 Pepsi products to get 5 codes for each MP3. According to a great summary of the news at PaidContent, a similar Pepsi promotion for iTunes that aimed to give away 100 million songs in 2004 only saw 5 million people participate. These are different days, though, and DRM + excessive soda consumption = free music is far less compelling than a straight path from soda to tunes, I suppose. If they were serious about it they could just as easily offer one song for one soda - but the economics wouldn't work out. Rumor has it that Amazon wants to pay the labels only 40 cents for each song they give away, as opposed to the current industry standard of 70 cents.
Whatever. The point is, by Superbowl time, thanks to online outlets like Amazon and Walmart, consumer expectation of a DRM-free experience in music may be a whole lot more mainstream than it is today.