Warner Music has revolutionised the music download industry by inking a deal to provide a rival download service to rival Apple's iTunes store.

The record label's contract with download website 7digital.com will see computer users in a number of European countries able to download albums from the likes of REM, Madonna and the Red Hot Chili Peppers without copy protection.

And in providing music free of Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection, the Warner-7digital deal will allow music fans to download tracks which can be played on almost all portable music players, including Apple's iPod.

John Reid, president of Warner Music Europe, said the deal "will offer music fans a new level of flexibility in their use of tracks from our world-renowned artists".

"We believe that providing consumers with this assurance of interoperability will encourage sales of music downloads and ultimately help the development of new digital music experiences," he added.

The market is currently dominated by Apple, whose DRM-protected tracks can only be played on an Apple device such as an iPod.

Though the company offers a number of DRM-free songs through its iTunes Plus service, this only applies to EMI artists who also have a deal with the DRM-free 7music.

And with 7digital also believed to be in discussions with Universal Music and Sony BMG, today's deal could see the emergence of a real competitor to iTunes.

"7digital.com is excited to be Warner Music's first major partner in Europe to bring MP3s to the marketplace," said Ben Drury, 7digital's chief executive.

"7digital.com is committed to becoming the destination for MP3s and we plan to make our entire music catalogue available in DRM-free, high-quality MP3 format by summer 2008."

05/03/2008 16:40:02