Warner signs 7digital MP3 deal in Europe

LONDON (Reuters) - Warner Music has signed a deal with digital media site to provide its catalogue in the MP3 format, which can be played on nearly all music devices.

The music industry had relied on digital rights management (DRM) as the cornerstone in its fight against illegal downloading but the labels are now offering tracks without the restrictive protection in an effort to increase digital sales.

Warner Music International, a division of Warner Music Group WMG.N, said its catalogue -- with hits from James Blunt and the Red Hot Chili Peppers -- would be available to customers in the UK, Ireland, Spain, France and Germany.

The site is the first major European download store to offer Warner’s tracks in the DRM-free MP3 format -- 7digital offers EMI’s catalogue in the MP3 format and aims to sign more labels soon.

Online retailer Amazon AMZN.O is to roll out an MP3 service outside of the United States this year.

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

“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.”

Reporting by Kate Holton