7digital's DRM-free music store going to the US, worldwide

7digital has announced plans to roll out its international DRM-free music download store, and the US is a top priority. We chatted with 7digital CEO Ben Drury to get more juicy details

Nate Lanxon Special to CNET News
2 min read

If Amazon's music store going international wasn't enough digital music news for you today, 7digital took the liberty of announcing its international roll-out plans today, and its CEO took time out to talk to us one-on-one.

The DRM-free 7digital download store is often discussed alongside iTunes, eMusic and Amazon as a major player in the music download world. It was one of the first online stores to host EMI's DRM-free catalogue and now offers over three million tracks, the majority of which are sans-DRM.

Today it announced it's set to receive £4.25m of investor funding. The deal is expected to be finalised towards the end of next month. The US is expected to receive a big fat intravenous injection of 7digital love as a result of this deal, meaning the well-established iTunes and Amazon could be in for a tussle.

This news is one of a string of interesting moves made by the UK-based firm. Last year it struck a deal with Last.fm -- which itself is hitting the headlines again lately -- that allows users of the popular music-streaming site to buy songs from 7digital within the Last.fm environment. Later in '07 it announced DRM-free songs were outselling DRMed versions at a rate of four to one -- news that surprised no-one.

We spoke today to 7digital's CEO Ben Drury regarding the company's announcement. He told us that the plan is to offer the same service in the US as is currently available in the UK, but that licences differing from region to region make offering identical services tricky.

Amazon's recently struck deals with all four major labels for DRM-free downloads is something 7digital wasn't likely to ignore. When asked how the company intended to compete with Amazon in the US, Drury said the plan was of course to secure the same deals, and that they were "in talks" with the remaining major labels.

Regarding Amazon's announcement to invade the UK with its roster of major label backing, he said, "We welcome [Amazon] into the UK marketplace," and that it "will help move [the DRM-free industry] forward."

Finally, with more and more companies pedaling ahead in the mobile downloads market, Drury told us "we've been looking at the mobile market for four years now." Not surprisingly, he saw the previous lack of flat-rate mobile data plans as having been one of the main issues, but now they're becoming more common Drury expects 7digital to move into the mobile download arena.

2008 is probably going to be one of the most exciting and productive years not just for digital music, but for DRM-free and wireless downloads of digital music, regardless of what device you choose to invest in. You should also expect lossless downloads, as we've previously predicted. Curiously 7digital has offered lossless downloads of Radiohead songs before, as did Russian rebels AllOfMP3.com on a vast range of titles.

Excitement builds. -Nate Lanxon