Warner Music Group dabbles in the DRM-free world

When Amazon launched its MP3 store, I waxed philosophic on how the most influential music of my youth was released on labels distributed by Warner, which has been holding out on providing DRM-free content to digital vendors. Until now.

Billboard.biz reports Warner Music Group has begun selling DRM-free content on Amazon. My initial reaction, of course, was glee, but then I read the article a bit more closely. There’s no mention of how many titles would be available — a fact trumpeted by Universal when the download store launched in September 2007 — only that a "range of digital products" would be available. Translation: not as much as you’d think, let alone wish.

My first few searches struck out. No Throwing Muses, the Smiths, Hüsker Dü or Replacements. I did find some Kronos Quartet, Bill Frisell and Steve Reich, as well as 10,000 Maniacs, Freedy Johnston and Missy Elliott. So it looks like the Elektra titles have some presence, perhaps more than Warner and Atlantic.

So using my recently-cataloged collection, I started searching for artists on particular labels. Enya (Reprise)? Nada. Everything But the Girl (Atlantic)? Two titles. The Flaming Lips (Warner)? A bunch of EPs but no real albums. The B-52’s (Warner)? Cosmic Thing and something on Rhino. Emmylou Harris? Her Nonesuch titles but nothing from her 20 some odd years on Warner Bros.

Some higher profile artists had better representation, of course. The big hit Warner albums by R.E.M., Out of Time and Automatic for the People, are available, but not the crufty stuff such as Monster or Up. Just about all the Missy Elliott albums are up there, as well as quite a number of Björk.

No Madonna, of course.

Nonetheless, it’s a first step, a test to see how well DRM-free content fares for the reluctant Warner Music Group. I hope it does well.

UPDATE, 01/01/08: I guess it took a few days for some updates to happen because now there are more titles by Throwing Muses, the Replacements, Everything But the Girl, Enya and the B-52’s. Still no Hüsker Dü nor the Smiths.