7digital: Legal MP3s from EMI, linked to Last.fm

7digital has launched a new site offering EMI's entire catalogue in MP3, without DRM. It has also partnered with Last.fm and offers a permanent backup facility for your music

We have some Cravetastic news for the online music world -- 7digital just cornered us in a dark, very comfy room in Soho, and unveiled to us its "revolutionary" new digital download service. It features EMI's entire back catalogue, including the likes of Paul McCartney and even Iron Maiden's complete careers, all DRM-free in 320kbps MP3 format, with albums starting at just £5.

Yes, that's just five quid for Paul McCartney in MP3. It expects the three other major labels to jump on-board before too long as well, and until then their catalogues come with DRM.

Because 7digital is a Web site, there's no software to install on your computer. It works on all browsers, including the new Windows version of Apple's Safari and even the browser on the Wii. You're also given the unique opportunity to kick back and relax to minute-long previews of every song. Very swish.

But it's not all about music. There are thousands of videos on offer too, such as Bob Marley's legendary 'Live At The Rainbow' concert in its entirety. There are also BBC shows such as Little Britain Live and hundreds of documentaries.

For those of you who still insist on not backing up your data, any items you download from the site remain in your 7digital 'locker', meaning you can redownload any previous purchase from any computer in the world if you need to. eMusic does this -- and we've previously found it very useful indeed -- but to promote a backup service as a feature is certainly likely to turn some heads, especially since iTunes, the largest online retailer of digital music, doesn't actively offer a backup service of any kind.

7digital has also forged an exclusive alliance with the guys at Last.fm. So if you're cruising Last.fm for new tunes and hear something you like, a button next to the track lets you click through to 7digital and buy it. This also means Last.fm widgets in sites such as MySpace and Facebook effectively become micro-portals for buying digital music legally.

The whole package appears to blend the features of the new iTunes Plus service with eMusic's excellent DRM-free download store, by offering big-name artists alongside thousands of independent labels, all MP3 and all DRM-free. When asked, 7digital didn't rule out the possibility of offering even greater quality music files -- in FLAC format, for example -- in the future.

The UK store goes live today, with European launches later this month and a worldwide launch in Q3 of this year. Watch your back iTunes -- you're not the only one who gets EMI's blessing. -Nate Lanxon

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