Rhapsody America Offers Mixed Format Landscape

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Rhapsody America sparked its consumer campaign at the VMAs on Monday, the beginning of a broader splash ahead.

But format specifics are mostly in flux at the destination, thanks to a gradual DRM-free dip by major labels.  Currently, Rhapsody is offering a portion of the Universal Music Group catalog DRM-free, part of a larger experiment by the label.  But Rhapsody has yet to incorporate DRM-free tracks from EMI, and it remains unclear when that catalog will surface.

In a conversation Tuesday, a Rhapsody representative declined to discuss specifics on EMI, though a broader push away from protected formats is definitely underway.  “We definitely look forward to offering DRM-free songs for download purchase from every label,” the representative said.

From a broader perspective, most expect all four majors to shed protections over time, though Warner Music Group and Sony BMG have yet to take the plunge.  And Universal is largely in an experimental mode, raising questions on when a bigger push will happen.  Meanwhile, a precipitous drop in CD sales is narrowing the time window within which majors can experiment, though it still remains unclear whether DRM-free means bigger digital sales.  In the case of EMI, the data is mostly inconclusive, and the label has yet to release meaningful sales information on its iTunes Plus initiative.