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DG Web Shop: DRM-free classicals courtesy of... Universal?

Deutsche Grammophon -- a music label owned by Universal -- has launched a DRM-free classical music download store, armed with deleted recordings and exclusive titles. eMusic for classicals, anyone?

One of the most notable DRM-free ventures this year (after the launches of iTunes Plus and 7Digital's unsheathed offerings) was AmazonMP3's debut, which included not only EMI's DRM-free catalogue, but also DRM-free portions of Universal's. This was the awkward foreplay between the world's largest online store and the world's largest major label, but it looks like Universal discovered something: DRM-free ain't all bad (duh!).

The label has let Deutsche Grammophon -- a music company it owns -- launch a DRM-free classical music store called DG Web Shop. Though the name isn't the most inspirational of titles, its features are. The store will be offering 24,000 classical music titles in high-quality 320kbps MP3 format, including 600 out-of-print releases, 100 of which are exclusive to the site. Album booklets will also be available alongside concert details and promo videos.

Albums will cost €11 (£7.90) and single tracks will go for €1.29 (£0.93), plus it'll be available in over 40 countries. Worldwide availability and ad hoc purchase options could make DG Web Shop more attractive than the competition to consumers -- eMusic requires a monthly subscription and AmazonMP3 is only available in the US.

DG Web Shop is most interesting because of its ties with Universal, but it's not the first place to sell classical works sans-DRM. AmazonMP3 has a large collection, and so does eMusic, the latter being an entirely DRM-free store and the second most popular digital music store on the planet.

But what the new German store could, and surely will do, is specialise. With such a large musical body behind it, exclusive releases and deleted works digitally available at the touch of a button, it could be for classical music what eMusic was to indie artists. eMusic certainly made a name for itself by respecting customers' right to fair use and backed up its respect with a gigantic collection of independent releases.

We'll be keeping our viewing spheres glued to this one, folks. It has great potential in the classical market. -Nate Lanxon