digiwax = DRM-free MP3 + Vinyl

May 16, 2007 Vinyl records, for all their wonderous qualities, are such impractical things. You have to store them correctly, take care to ensure your turntable isn't destroying them, and even if you have the equipment to rip them to digital formats at high-quality (USB turntables don't count), you're left with a recording of a recording that was mastered specifically for the qualities (and limitations) of the vinyl format. Well aware of the dilemmas facing record collectors with iPods or digital DJ rigs, U.K. based First Word Records have released their first "digiwax" vinyl record, which includes a code allowing purchasers to download DRM-free 320kbit MP3's of the album.

In a refreshing display of relevance, First Word co-founder Aly Gillani told Wired the reasoning behind the lack of DRM. "Once a customer has paid for the track they should be free to play it in any player. Making a legal, paid-for version of the file less useful than a copied or pirated one doesn't make sense."

What he forgot to mention is that the DRM in digital music files often means they're unplayable in most popular DJ software - including the prolific Ableton Live. This has previously allowed sites like Addictech to step up and capture a large audience of tech-savvy digital DJs with a choice of DRM-free MP3, FLAC or WAV for digital releases - but even Addictech have kept their vinyl releases as vinyl only.

It's no surprise to see innovations in music distribution taking place in the realm of the independents. Will major labels realise that giving customers what they want is a good thing? Can they do so before bands, and the consumers, realise they don't need them, and everyone would be happier without them?

Times, they are a-changin'...

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