Paul McCartney's new album being sold DRM-free online… for $1.56

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The music industry has been waging a battle against Russian music download site AllOfMP3 in recent months, over the way the latter sells digital downloads of brand new albums for less than a couple of dollars. However, it seems the floodgates could be opening for similar sites.

Music industry publication Music Ally has been investigating AllOfMP3’s rivals for its new report, out later today. And it’s found Paul McCartney’s new album ‘Memory Almost Full’ on sale at one, MP3City, for just $1.56 as DRM-free MP3 files encoded at 320kbps.

The album doesn’t even come out until next week, and was supposed to be one of the key albums pushing Apple’s new iTunes Plus offering. Yet the fact that you can buy it online now, for 79p – the price of a single iTunes song with DRM – shows why the music industry is so spooked by these websites.

Memory Almost Full is still on sale at MP3City here, although it’ll be interesting to see just how long it stays online for. But Music Ally says that shutting down a single website isn’t going to stop people using these sites to get cheap tunes.

“There’s a perception that since AllOfMP3.com has become less available in the West, the problem with the Russian MP3 sites has gone away,” says Music Ally’s Steve Mayall. “It hasn’t. It’s just moved onto new sites, which is the exact same trend that happened when the original bad Napster was shut down: everyone simply moved onto another file-sharing network.”

Music Ally also looked at rival sites Legal Sounds and MP3Sugar, finding new albums by the likes of Mika ($0.99) Kaiser Chiefs ($1.17), Amy Winehouse ($1.32), the Klaxons ($1.32), Beyonce ($1.78) and The Arcade Fire ($1.78). The sites take standard Visa and MasterCard credit cards, despite these payment providers having withdrawn their services from AllOfMP3.com.

Are these sites legal? They say they are, and brandish licences to prove it. Is there a legal basis for the record labels to get these sites shut down? Mayall says it’s complicated.

“The labels have been doing the King Canute thing for years and it hasn’t worked, but this time there is a genuine issue with Russian copyright law,” he says. “The name Legal Sounds alone shows that there is probably a genuine belief among some of the site owners that what they’re doing is legitimate.”

Stuart Dredge