We declared several weeks ago that 2007 would be the year that labels would finally embrace or at least seriously experiment with unrestricted mp3's. After all, 2006 was the year that labels dropped DRM on all physical CD's. Now Billboard and other mainstream media are jumping on the mp3 bandwagon with some new (and some old) evidence.
New to us is the news that popular former EMI digital guru Ted Cohen has been hired by Limewire to convince labels to allow a DRM free six month test to see if the P2P can convert it's 40 million users to paid downloaders.
The media is now also reporting other mp3 friendly activity that Hypebot readers already know: the MySpace/SnoCap deal is mp3 only, Yahoo! Music is on a mission to encourage more major label mp3 activity, EMusic is the current mp3 leader but it's low price per track subscpription model will never fly with the majors, and of course the story that Hypebot broke that Amazon is readying an mp3 only store and saying to labels "if you want to market to our loyal customers it has to be with mp3's". We're also now hearing that KOCH. ADA, and perhaps other physical distributors who also control the digital distribution of some labels will begin offering mp3's as an option for labels that want it. This is a particularly interesting development given that ADA is owned by WMG.
Another important motivator that other media is finally starting to report is that major labels have been looking for months for someone to challenge the iPod/iTunes juggaurnat. Early signs don't show MTV's URGE or Micorsoft's ZUNE gaining much traction. The majors hate that so much distribution power is in Apple's hands. Going Mp3 completely opens up the playing field without asking consumers to give up their precious iPods.
Stay tuned. This is going to be fun to watch; and for once the consumer should be the winner.