Last week Universal Music announced it will begin testing DRM-free songs through a number of venues, excluding Apple's iTunes Store. The test includes a partnership with search giant Google, which will run an AdWords campaign pointing users searching for DRM-free music to a new music start-up called gBox.

Newcomer gBox will get to sell a selection of DRM-free songs at 99 cents during Universal Music's five-month trial, which will take place between August 21 and January 31. Google will get standard advertising fees rather than a cut of sales under the arrangement.

gBox also is developing a "wish list" feature that users can place on their blogs or social-networking profiles including MySpace, Facebook and other sites. Friends visiting the blog or profile can buy a song for that user through gBox.

"Instead of doing marketing and (advertising on) billboards on Highway 101 to go to gBox," gBox Chief Executive Tammy Artim said, "we want to take advantage of the viral element that has been so successful for companies in the past."
While gBox will be undercutting iTunes by a full 30 cents for DRM-free songs, the California-based startup will still face a hard time becoming a threat to Apple's iTunes. Still, a more balanced music landscape, with more and more music download services jumping in, will certainly benefit customers with added competition in a market that is currently monopolized by Apple.