Google, Universal Music Partner To Sell DRM-Free Music

Google and Universal Music Group will be partnering with gBox, Inc., an online music retailer, to sell DRM-free music tracks via Google search results. gBox, based in Apple’s backyard of Cupertino, California, will begin selling Universal tracks, sans DRM, via their web site on August 21. Universal will purchase text ads on Google’s searches to direct searchers to gBox sales pages.

Though Universal will also sell music without copy protection through Wal-Mart, Best Buy Digital Music Store, Rhapsody, Transworld, Passalong Networks, Amazon.com and Puretracks, only gBox will benefit from their Google search advertising. Tracks will cost $.99 each, which undercuts iTunes by 30 cents for DRM-free music.

Noticably absent from the list is Apple’s iTunes. As the New York Times notes, it appears that the music industry is attempting to shift power away from Apple.

“The effort is likely to be seen as part of the industry‚Äôs wider push to increase competition to iTunes and shift leverage away from Apple, which wields enormous influence over prices and other terms in digital music. A month ago, Universal notified Apple that it would not agree to a new long-term contract to sell music through iTunes.”

This move is likely a coup for gBox, which offers embeddable widgets for social networks that let people create music wish lists allowing their friends to purchase tracks as gifts, but also a win for record labels. More people on the gBox web site means more people using gBox on their MySpace profiles, which in turn serves to spread music downloads virally. For now, gBox only works with Windows PCs running Internet Explorer, though a note on the site says that Firefox support is coming soon. It is unlikely that the Universal artist pages, however, will be restricted to Windows users because only the creation of gBox widgets is IE-only — the embedded widget itself is cross-browser.

Read/WriteWeb Network blog last100 has a lot more info on this announcement.

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