EMI has been aggressively pushing an MP3-based plan, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.
In early January, an informant told Digital Music News that a major label was preparing to position a large percentage of its catalog as open MP3s, and signs pointed to EMI. The Journal piece strengthens that argument, noting that the label has been “holding talks with several online retailers about the possibility of selling its entire digital music catalog in the unprotected MP3 format,” citing several sources. EMI has been in advanced discussions with numerous digital music providers, including MTV, Napster, and RealNetworks, and a major portion of those negotiations revolved around upfront cash payments to EMI. The one-time payouts were positioned as an insurance policy against potential losses, according to the piece.
The providers balked at those demands, according to various sources, though EMI subsequently requested counter-proposals. That is part of an ongoing negotiation, and one that could result in a major move. The development heightens the important of an open letter by Steve Jobs, which called for labels to drop protections from their digital catalogs. The ongoing EMI discussions may have spurred the Jobs letter, though other labels remain unenthusiastic. The RIAA was first to rifle back against the Jobs proposal, and Warner Music Group chairman Edgar Bronfman, Jr. sounded the protectionist message on Thursday. The other majors, Universal Music Group and Sony BMG, have also been siding with DRM.