It's a full hand of cards for Amazon: the Web's mega-retailer announced Thursday that it will be selling music from Sony BMG Music Entertainment in its Amazon MP3 store. This means that Amazon MP3, which only sells "naked" tracks without any digital rights management (DRM) protection, now has deals with all four major music labels. Because of the lack of copy protection, any song from Amazon MP3 can play on virtually any media-playing device, from PCs to music players to cell phones and PDAs.
The DRM-free songs from Sony BMG will be available for purchase on Amazon MP3 later this month.
Sony BMG announced earlier this week its intent to drop DRM from its music, making it the last major label to do so. Amazon MP3, which launched in September, already sells music from the other three major labels--EMI, the Vivendi-owned Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group--as well as over 33,000 independent labels. Currently, there are 3.1 million songs for purchase.
A full catalog of DRM-free music files means that Amazon is legitimately poised to take on Apple's iTunes Store, the industry leader by far in digital music sales. Most of Amazon's songs, which range largely from 89 to 99 cents, outprice Apple's 99-cent standard. And as the result of disagreements with Apple, Universal Music Group has not licensed its DRM-free catalog to the iTunes Store.
In the meantime, Apple dropped the prices of its DRM-free songs from a premium $1.29 to the regular 99 cents, a sign that it was starting to feel the pressure from Amazon.
Amazon doesn't yet have the market share to start boasting, but it finally has the upper hand in a culture that has increasingly turned against digital rights management. User experience reviews of Amazon MP3 have been mixed, but there's little doubt that this poses the most formidable threat to the iTunes monopoly yet.