7digital's Warner deal for DRM-free tracks confirms it as the UK music startup to beat

7digital has secured the first deal to exclusively sell Warner Music’s full catalogue in the rights-free format across Europe. Customers in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany and Spain can now download tracks from Warner artists in DRM-free MP3, firing a shot across the bow of Apple’s iTunes store, which utterly dominates the music downloads market. 7digital now stocks 3.5m tracks, 80% of which are rights-free. The site already has a deal to sell EMI’s DRM-free music and is also negotiating with Sony BMG and Universal.

The deal confirms Ben Drury, it’s co-founder and MD as one of the smartest brains in the digital music business today. I met him many years ago when he was a raw recruit on Music Week magazine and later when I interviewed him for a podcast a couple of years ago. 7digital now seems pretty unstoppable, thanks to the smart thinking of him and his team. I could only find one picture of Ben online and it’s a crappy mobile phone one – taken by me!

In January, 7digital secured £4.25 million in a round led by Sutton Place Managers that included original investor Balderton Capital (formerly Benchmark Europe). The company started offering DRM free downloads in December and has since seen a 188% increase in sales. 7digital also provides branded digital solutions for clients such as ITV & Channel Five, Pringles, Miller, Last.FM and Bebo.