Because the song, a party-pop track called "A Public Affair," has no digital rights management (DRM) protection coded into it, it will be compatible with just about every type of digital music player, from the iPod to the iRiver, as well as with film- and music-editing programs that may not have been able to read DRM-encoded files.
While MP3 music files are commonplace in search results of peer-to-peer networks where files can be copied and shared illegally, they're noticeably scarce among files sold by online music stores such as Yahoo, Rhapsody and Apple Computer's iTunes. This is because the DRM technology packed into those files dictates where, how often or for how long the content can be accessed. In the case of music files, DRM can control how many times a song is shared or copied, or what devices can play it.
"We've been publicly trying to convince record labels that they should be selling MP3s for a while now," writes Yahoo Music blogger Ian Rogers. "DRM has a cost. It's very expensive for companies like Yahoo to implement. We'd much rather have our engineers building better personalization, recommendations, playlisting applications, community apps, etc., instead of complex provisioning systems which at the end of the day allow you to burn a CD and take the DRM back off, anyway."
The Recording Industry Association of America, a music industry trade group, declined to comment on Yahoo's preference for selling MP3 music files.
Offering an MP3 file for paid download is uncommon but not unheard of. The subscription download service eMusic sells and offers more than a million songs, primarily from independent labels.
The Yahoo blog post insists that the $1.99 price of "A Public Affair"--notably higher than the 99-cent standard set by iTunes--has nothing to do with its availability in the MP3 format, but rather with a gimmick that "personalizes" the song by incorporating the downloader's name into it.