More evidence that the music industry might finally be ‘getting it’ came with last week’s announcement by 7digital of its revamped music download service. Not only is the company moving towards DRM-free mp3 downloads (which, thanks to a recent deal with EMI, now account for over 50% of its catalogue), but has also introduced a ‘locker’ feature whereby purchased tracks and videos are accessible by users “from anywhere with an Internet connection”. Additionally, if for some reason you lose your original paid-for downloads, through a hard drive failure for example, you’re free to re-download those tracks at no extra cost. For me, this is a must have feature that the market leader, Apple’s iTunes, sorely lacks.
Also differentiating itself from iTunes, 7digital’s DRM-free tracks are offered as 320kbps MP3s — which is pretty close to CD quality. And unlike Apple’s iTunes Plus, 7digital doesn’t charge a premium for the privilege of having your music DRM-free or encoded at a higher bit-rate.
Finally, and perhaps my favourite aspect of the service, is 7digital’s DIY indiestore whereby unsigned artists can sell their music via the 7digital platform. Once again trumping iTunes — where it takes a cumbersome ‘middle man’ process to get your music into Apple’s store. 7digital also has a partnership with social network, Bebo (which is particularly popular in the UK), so that unsigned bands can get their music promoted and sold on the site’s millions of user profiles.