back to article Legal, major label DRM-free MP3s hit UK (at last)

Play.com, the Jersey-based entertainment retailer, has beaten Apple and Amazon to the punch today by opening the UK's first mainstream* legal digital rights management-free music download store with major label backing. Amazon has yet to replicate its US digital store on this side of the Atlantic, and a spokesman for the firm …

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Anonymous Coward

Heard of 7digital

last time I looked they had drm-free 320k mp3's legally available in the uk.

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Old codger strikes back

[There'll still be no way to download the Beatles catalogue DRM-free legally, of course.]

Those of us who bought the vinyl on release day back in the 60's won't worry about that; thanks to Audio Cleaning Lab, it's still listenable despite damage done at the parties. But I am delighted to hear about Play.com. Let's all pile in and buy lots of music, so those idiots in the major labels get the message that we hate DRM.

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Well done Play

Great news, and i can't think of a site i'd rather have it first.

Will give a massive kick up the arse to Amazon and the rest as well.

Though at prices like that, for 320kps no less, who cares.

As the geeks say: p0wned!

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Someone fell for "bigger numbers must be better" con.

320K MP3 is generaly regarded as lower quality than 256K AAC (what iTunes+ dishes out). So what we have is PLAY.COM undercutting iTunes, but with the same titles (Apple already have the EMI catalog in +) and at slightly lower quality. Not a huge story.

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Coat

Well

I've been getting DRM-free MP3s in the UK for ages...oh...right...legally...

Mine's the lime green one with the wire sticking out...

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At last.

Well done play congratulations, finally music at realistic prices with realistic legalities, as of today I know where I will be going for music.

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Jon
Stop

AAC is not only apple. and retailers, please stop using MP3

eh, my moto q, samsung phone, windows media player, zune (erghhhh) will all play AAC audio in a m4a container (This is the non-drm'd music).

Will retailers please stop using 1980ish mp3 format? We have better more efficient codec's than the lossy scratchy compressed rauchny napster mp3 format. Please let it die already.

Finally, 224kbs AAC is about equivelant to 320kbs MP3, except the MP3 file will be much bigger.

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Sorry to sound like an arse, but...

AAC is not "the company's own" format I'm afraid; it has nothing to do with Apple, except the fact that they license it. It's part of the MP4 specification.

Less importantly, that first statement is kinda misleading. Whilst this may be the first UK ALL-drm-free store, it's certainly not the first store to offer drm-free music. I'm sure that's not what you meant to imply, though.

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MP3

Is the patent on the algorithm over yet?

AAC still has fees and Vorbis though free is not used widely.

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"Apple iTunes Plus in the UK offers DRM-free tracks, but only in the company's own AAC format"

AAC is an MPEG standard first published in 1997.

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Linux

AAC? Catch a grip

Where's the OGGs?

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Bit rate

Comparing the bit rate of one format to the bit rate of another is much like comparing an AMD processor to an Intel processor in MHz (i.e. totally irrelevant).

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Why are you complaining?!

I couldn't care less that MP3 is slightly larger than AAC. MP3 is pretty much standard, there's hardly a player/phone out there that doesn't support it - which makes it almost universal.

The capacity of todays players makes it stupid to start moaning about the size of .mp3 files. Play are a commercial company, everyone can play MP3, the quality is on par with iTunes and the price is lower. Sounds like they made a pretty smart move if you ask me.

Get the other majors onboard and it's a sure winner. Well done Play.

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AAC doesn't exist in the market

There are loads of formats. They are probably all better than MP3 but no one cares. Joe Public recognise the term MP3. They know that if they want to listen to music they need an MP3. They know that if they want a device to play music on they need an MP3 player (or an iPOD). It's just like all vacuum cleaners are Hoovers.

MP3 might be the lowest common denominator, but it is common, everything supports it. I even carry MP3 CDs with me when travelling coz most hire cars now have CD players that support MP3. Perhaps if your an audiophile with rather better equipment than the speakers on a laptop or the average PC then it might make a difference. But most people don't.

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Alien

emusic

Until the prices come in line with emusic (I pay 20p per track), the majors are still playing catch up. Even at £6.99 for an album you're better off waiting for the cds to be discounted, most major release will be at about £6.99 after a month or too and you get the physical product thrown in to.

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Wake me up when someone sells FLAC

Or something similar.

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Black Helicopters

Receipts?!

I wonder if we should carry around a paper receipt for each purchased song alongside our mp3 player, just to prove they're not stolen?!

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Paris Hilton

soooo.......

LESS than CD 'quality' for (not much) less money?? They're not exactly putting themselves out, are they?? Until I can buy 16/44 copies of the songs I want to own (= to CD), at LESS than the price of a CD, they simply won't have my money. In fact, if 'they' are serious about selling product, everyone would want to jump on the audio equivalent of HD (be it 24/192 or similar) if we can have super-duper Visual quality, why not for sound too?? why are Visuals improving, and Audio going back into the Seventies???

AARRRGGGHHH!!! I'm inside my own mind!!!!

Paris, cos of all those sites promising but never delivering.

Steve

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Well done play

Great news. Get a few more labels involved and they can start having my money again!

But damn, now I can't use my excuse: "If they just bloody let us buy unrestricted mp3s, I'd do it like a shot"

Play: Get this right now and in a year you'll have a very big market.

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Anonymous Coward

Good, now drop the price

Well done Play - I almost got the Lenny album you're pushing, but not at that price. I'll wait a few months and I'll get the same album for £5, including a CD, album covers etc... for £4 for the album, I would have bought two albums...

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Flame

MP3s

Umm... what mssrs Hewitt and Confused and the others said. Squabbling over a couple of MB of file size is bloody stupid when the cost of mass storage is going down so dramatically. As for the people who think they can tell the difference between a lossy format with a good bitrate and a lossless format: they're just so full of crap it's pathetic. Probably the same people who drive around in a two litre car when a 1.3 would adequately suit their needs.

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Gates Horns

Fuckin whiners

AAC, OGG, FLAC, waaaah waaaah waaaaah.

If you like your unpopular formats why not convert them for fucks sake, most player programs will.

320kps MP3 is practically lossless, to the non-crazy ears of a normal person. So you won't lose much. Audiophiles, fuck off.

Stop whining, DRM is on its deathbed now.

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@ Tom Bradbury

I'm sure the receipts will be a great comfort to your survivors, after the plods kill you, execution style, for "suspicion of carrying a concealed unlicensed audio file." And, as a bonus, they'll have your DNA on file, too. Until they lose the data because some git sent it through the Post without any tracking applied.

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Shame I am boycotting them

Its a real shame I am boycotting the industry for trying to sue me for 150 million USD or I would actually be quite happy about this news. However, as it stands they need to do a great deal more to win me or my family over.

The price is not terrible but it is not good either and they are lacking a "preview" facility allowing you to listen to a sample of the song before you purchase it (which most high street music retailers provide nowadays).

Bring the price down to half what it currently is, offer a choice of formats (like allofmp3.com did) in either flac, ogg, wmv, aac or mp3 (should keep everyone happy I think?) and it will be a big improvement.

Of course a big fat "We're very sorry for alienating the majority of our consumers with our strong arm tactics, cartel like behaviour, price fixing, and yes we are very sorry for suing 30 000 people. Also we are sorry for lying to governments about how much we are losing to piracy, we are sorry for making you all endure the crap we have been trying sell for the past 20 years and finally we are sorry for not paying the artists fair royalties." wouldn't go a miss either.

All in all though, I give this a thumbs up, which as many of you know, coming from me is a pretty strong endorsement given my history with the industry. But like I said, my boycott remains strong until myself and my family receive a formal and written apology.

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Happy

Now, now, Boys . . .

. . . stop squabbling over your size, Again! But I guess boys will be boys . . . you little tinkers.

The main story and point here is . . . this is just the beginning, the birth or more appropriately, the re-birth of the record(ing) industry.

Yes, yes, I heard all of your incredulous gasps, chokes, coughs, splurts and laughter!!

So, let me explain . . .

I haven't bought any music (personally) for many years, I've had it bought for me . . . you know, Xmas and B'days, etc . . . and have appreciated the music and the fact that someone would spend so much on a CD for me.

But the most important thing (to me) is the MUSIC!!! I don't think I'm alone when it comes to that.

Sure, there are people who want the physical media in their hands, the artwork of the single/album cover, the lyrics, the special directors cut of the video with running commentary and the 12 inch remix (feat. Jazzi XYZ vs. Apollo someone or other) and that's fine by me . . . Can I just have the music please, it's the only thing that pushes any of my buttons.

BTW I want the music you offer for sale for the cost of producing the track/album only (with a profit for you), BUT . . . if anyone else wants the whistles and bells highlighted in the last paragraph, then charge THEM for it . . . Not me!

Selfish? Maybe but consider this . . . It may well only be EMI that Play have signed up with (or managed to sign up, who cares) but I Googled EMI's back catalogue and started to drool (go check it out for yourselves here: http://www.catalogue.emirecords.co.uk).

On that evidence alone, I am ready to spend my money, right here, right NOW!!

When (not if) the remaining 3 'majors' go the same way (with Play), I'm looking forward to spending even more of my money.

Why?!

65 pence (average 70p) for a track, 7 quid for an album (I suspect 12 to 14 tracks), I'll take it. When they're all onboard (the Majors that is), I look forward to spending 10 quid or so on a 'Pick n Mix' album and will have a field day doing it!! Plus, over time, the price will go down.

But the burning question to the Majors is . . . if we listen to you and give you what you want . . . 'Will you share it?'

My answer is, 'Of course I will Bloody share it!' But not over BitTorrent or any other p2p mechanism!!

I will 'share' it, the experience you give me, looking through your back catalogues and buying from them and taking them to partys & playing the music and when someone asks: 'Can I have a copy/Can you do me a copy of that'

My reply will be:

'No!! You can't have/I won't do you . . . a copy!! Why . . . Cos what you're asking me to do for you, you can do for yourself, if you can be arsed enough to put down that can of beer and take that pie out of your gob at the same time. You've drunk/eaten 4 tracks already and by the end of the night you will have drunk/eaten 4 Pick n Mix albums.

So in summary, pack, stack and rack it high . . . Sell it low and believe me, you will make more money than you have ever dreamed of, even in your wildest imagination.

Don't believe me?! Try it and let the smile creep back on your face but remember . . . never, ever smirk and NEVER, EVER look SMUG!!

TTFN

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@ Neil

"Probably the same people who drive around in a two litre car when a 1.3 would adequately suit their needs."

I love those toy-town cars you Brits drive, so cute.

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Alien

Great move Play

As one of the biggest music suppliers to the UK, this is a HUGE step in the right direction.

I made deliberate purchases at itunes when they launched the plus service, despite a dire offering of music in my chosen genres, purely to endorse the whole DRM free thing.

I'll buy some stuff that i want from Play too, as a gesture that they are doing things right.

But, i wont be completely happy till im getting a lossless, CD quality download, equivalent to what id be buying on a CD.

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Paris Hilton

So bugger me , not again !

So in order to level the playing field they needed to remove the unfair Russian competition Allofmp3 because you paid by the megabyte and had a free choice on encoding as well !

But the question remains , why would the punters be stupid and silly enough to pay full price again for the same music they already have in their CD/LP album collections or one can easily find in any flea market , second hand shop or pawn shop in the land at ten pee per disc ?

Or as Paris would say "a sucker is born every minute ?" !

And those that flee the twins island of the permanent fog bank in the South Pacific for warmer climes along with far better pay in Oz and Europa would say "Bugger Me!"

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Cross-Encoding

Why don't these services offer easy cross-encoding that AllOfMP3 had? Pick your songs and then choose which format you wanted. Most songs had FLAC, MP3, OGG Vorbis, WM9, ... And you could choose the encoding quality.

I find it hilarious that AllOfMP3 is/was considered illegal by the record companies and various western governments, but they provided a better class of service than the legal alternatives.

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Joke

@aac fans

to all those AAC fans out there I seem to recall that Apple initially provided 128kb which on every test ran dead last and the higher the bit rate the better mp3 out performed and at 320kb a lame mp3 encoder/decoder ran rings around the Apple POS encoder/decoder in blind tests at most bit rates including SONY's now deceased ATRAC trash !

I find it interesting since some 95% of all ilooney sold to date was the slower DRM'd 128kb rate which truly sucked big time even when deloused with fair user and drained the batteries at a faster rate too !

Oh how sad for the fan boys so easily satisfied with so much krudd !

It would appear for the fan boys of AAc , April 1st is their permanent groundhog day !

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Happy

Play.com

Brilliant.

I've just replaced my Air - Moon Safari album which some bugger nicked off me years ago for less than £7. And I can stick it back on CD without worrying about the DRM causing issues further down the line.

A nice easy shopping experience - almost easier than Amazon - I look forward to seeing the rest of the labels get on board.

Oh, by the way - MP3 is just easier (vitually universal support) and 320Kbs is good enough for most people's ears.

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Price-Features war

Yes, please. Let's have a Price - Features war in downloadable music. £0.10 tracks, in any encoding you want, from the entire history of recorded audio, by the end of 2008?

BTW. My friends at Gartner tell me the X market will be Y big in Z years.

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Pirate

Without a reasonable price.... Why bother?

I looked at Play and at 7 Digital, and checked the prices of a few albums...... They seem to be around £5.... Now go to Amazon markets as an example Caiman, and you can buy the same album with disk, cover and artwork (such as it is with cds) for around £6.

There really is no competition.... Unless we bring back Allofmp3.

Now that was goooood!

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Non-DRM FLAC

Why does no one sell non-DRM'd FLAC files? If you listen to MP3's on decent Hi-Fi gear it shows it up badly. I want an electronic format, that's as good as my CD's, damnit.

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MP3 is good enough for most people

I don't care about flac, ogg, wmv, aac or whatever else is out there. MP3 is good enough for me. I don't care if <insert format name here> is a little bit better, with a smaller file size, becuase my MP3 collection (mostly at about 128kps, some is 320 though) is good enough for me, and my MP3 player has about 50Gb free.

I don't know about (or care about) the different file types, all I want if a file that will work on all of my players - the main reason I won't touch DRM. MP3 fits the bill.

I don't much care about the physical CD either - I back up my music collection regularly, so having a physical backup makes no odds to me.

The price is a little higher than I would like, but isn't extortionate, and is a good start. I don't like eMusic because I don't want a monthly subscription, since I don't buy a great deal of music.

I just downloaded my first legal DRM-free album, and I'm very happy with the quality on my car stereo (where I listen to most of my music)

So to all those who was 10 different file formats for 2p each - f*ck off. The majority are happy with MP3, and will pay a fair price for it, so this is a good thing.

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Confused

I've been using DRM-free (legal) UK download sites for over a year now,

djdownloads and juno.

Ok they haven't got a "major" label signed, but thats a good thing!

MP3 or AAC? Who cares, if you have a decent device it should play many different formats not just one!

iTunes, I wouldn't have it anywhere near my PC out of principal.

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Stop

Stop moaning!

People moaning about formats - give them chance! Who's to say they won't have more formats available in the future?

People moaning about price - can you buy a CD single for 70p? You may not use this service for buying whole albums but for buying the odd track the price is unbeatable.

People moaning because it isn't like allofmp3.com - this was an illegal operation which gave no money to the music industry. Hardly the ideal business model!

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S

Quality, obviously

MP3 is *not* the same quality as you can get from ripping your own CD. Why pay the same for half a product.

Like others have said - All of Mp3 was able to reasonably reencode music for everyone to use, why can't any of these companies?

I'd love to buy my music in FLAC and then convert it to whatever I want to use - there's really not a huge amount of need to buy music for my collection in a lossy format - not when hard disk capacity is so cheap. Fair enough it's more useful for my MP3 player, but that can be dealt with later.

Only if the cost is suitably cheaper than buying a CD though...

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@Neil Hoskins

The reason I want lossless is that you can convert it to any format (present and future) and it will be as good as that format.

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again the price

so why would anyone pay for a download that is a quid cheaper than the CD? It is a huge markup considering that the artist is lucky to get a pound out of the deal. Even at less than a fiver the record company would make more of a profit over the physical object without all the overheads.

@AC - MP3 is good enough for most people. You clearly haven't heard 128bit over a half decent stereo as it sounds awful. Well I suppose it's good enough for the kids who play their music from the speaker in their phone. But then I'm one of these strange breed who prefers the sound of vinyl to CD.

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Linux

Flac too, please

I'd rather buy a CD and rip to Flac. I'd have two decent copies then.

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I'm not complain'in

I created an account on Play.com and downloaded my first MP3 album from them. Maybe it's not the perfect bit-rate or web-purchase-experience, but I'm gonna vote with my £ to show the record industry and resellers that there ARE customers like me out there who would like to by music online--as long as there's no %$£*! DRM!

Just 'cause people can steal music with P2P doesn't mean we won't choose to buy music.

Cool to get the album art with every single/album purchased.

Now I'm listening to songs from one of the first album's I ever bought. Ah memories of mowing lawns in my Texas neighourbood for $5 each (using my Dad's lawn mower).

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What is important here

The important thing here is that a major record company has accepted that DRM is dead by allowing Play to sell these MP3 files. Now we can have a price/feature war. Before they agreed to play the game that wasn't going to happen. Now it can.

Now if some site can go to the record company and say, "I can get you more money if you'll agree to X/track or album" and present a suitable business case, they can have a sensible business conversation. Before this, the conversation couldn't happen on religious grounds. This is progress.

I'd love to be able to buy sound recordings at better than CD quality. I'd love to have the equipment to enjoy them on. I'd probably love to still have hearing capable of responding, I doubt that in my mid 40s I can still hear frequencies well above 20KHz. CDs weren't ever that great, but they were bloody convenient and could be better than the vast majority of turntables. But a really good vinyl record on a top notch system sounded a lot nicer to listen to than the CD equivalent. High speed reel to reel tapes cut from the masters were even nicer. But I'm hardly going to carry a Revox around with me.

Perhaps if they perceive a potential market place they might start to sell some recording at higher than CD quality. If they can get their heads around the fact that selling CDs is the be all and end all of their business operation they might start to offer some quality choices. At the moment the whole recording process is based around the need to produce CDs.

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G4Z

@ Chewy

'You clearly haven't heard 128bit over a half decent stereo as it sounds awful.'

Pure fantasy that mate, I am quite into DJ'ing and I play mp3's through my CDJ's through my rather nice audio setup at home and it sounds great. Get a decent bitrate and you can't tell the difference between a CD and an mp3, I certainly can't and I am really quite picky about sound quality.

'But then I'm one of these strange breed who prefers the sound of vinyl to CD'

And that is the point when I realised you really don't have a clue, I also have a nice set of decks for DJing and I flip between mp3 and vinyl and I can tell you that 100% the vinyl sounds far worse. Its full of hiss and pop's especially when you get to a breakdown in the track and it all goes a bit quiet. I still use vinyl because I love mixing with it but to pretend that it sounds better is just insane. It really doesn't, people made that upgrade to CD for a reason you know?

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Totally unimpressed

Too little too late, Mr Music Industry.

Personally, until I can pay a few pounds a month for a beautiful interface on my PC to unlimited, high-quality streaming of any track ever produced I'm going to be very unimpressed.

Pay £7 for an album and not even get a CD? WTF are you on?

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DRM free FLAC

bleep.com sell DRM free FLAC. And there's none of that big label rubbish to wade through, just decent music.

Good things come to those who have sophisticated taste.

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Happy

Move in the right direction

Voted with wallet and bought two albums. Great to see DRM taking off, and while still quite expensive it is a move in the right direction.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Bleep have been doing this for years.

They even sell flac for the same price, which at £7 isn't unreasonable.

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