Stones roll out 'DRM-free' albums


LONDON -- London-based 7digital has become the first digital media delivery company to make available EMI's Rolling Stones catalog as DRM-free MP3s.

The 24 albums are delivered at the high-quality 320 kbps rate, and for the next four weeks will exclusively retail at at a special price point of £5.49 each ($11). After the promotion expires, the albums will cost £7.99 ($16) to download.

Today's announcement coincides with the first of the three London O2 Arena dates which draw curtains on the veteran band's two-year A Bigger Bang tour.

The albums date from 1971's "Sticky Fingers," the first studio release after the Stones left Decca, and continue through to 2005's "A Bigger Bang."

The series includes all of the band's studio and live albums since 1971, plus several period compilations including "Jump Back" and "Made In The Shade" - but not 2002's "Forty Licks," which was a joint-venture release between Decca/Universal and Virgin/EMI.

"To be the first and only music download service to make high quality downloads of the Rolling Stones' tracks available," says 7digital's managing director Ben Drury, "is a phenomenal coup for us."

All 7digital output can be played on any MP3 device, including iPod and Zen players, as well as mobile phones and PDAs.

Despite Universal's announcement earlier this month that it was trialling DRM-free downloads, sources say that there are no specific plans to release its part of the Stones' catalog in this format.