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Market Insight

Orange UK joins Vodafone selling DRM-free music

July 14, 2009

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Orange has followed Vodafone in offering tracks free from any digital rights management (DRM) on its multiplatform music store. The operator has agreed DRM-free deals with Universal, EMI and some independent labels to offer a total of 700,000 unencrypted tracks. These will be distributed across a new tiered pricing structure starting at £0.79.


There has been strong and vocal opposition to DRM of music from economic and legal perspectives. iTunes, Universal, Time Warner and EMI were all targets of lawsuits over allegations of anticompetitive behaviour as a result of its use. Digital rights managed services have not been popular with consumers either. DRM complicates music ownership; it hobbles tracks to a few brands of device, or number of players limiting the mobility of mobile music. DRM means that purchased tracks are less valuable than tracks stolen via P2P network which are always DRM-free.

On the other hand there is little evidence that the presence of DRM actually hindered digital music sales – if anything the Major's strategic decision to remove the DRM requirement was a response to iTunes's success and the market power it enjoyed rather than an attempt to resuscitate a failed model. Now the OTA and dual download services are following suit and Screen Digest expects the removal of DRM to have similarly modest results. DRM however is not going to disappear all together as it still remains a prerequisite of rental services and is used on popular ad funded music service such as Spotify.

Orange's introduction of a tiered pricing structure could have various effects. If some popular tracks are made cheaper it could drive sales and uptake of the Orange music store. However, if a premium is charged for different versions of the same song (DRM-free versus non DRM-free for example), consumers are more likely to get confused.

Vodafone Vodafone UK
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