EMI to Offer DRM-Free Online Music


The Cupertino-based company will make individual AAC format tracks available from EMI artists at twice the sound quality of existing downloads and without any digital right management (DRM technology). Pricing will be $1.29/€1.29/£0.99; however, iTunes will continue to offer consumers the ability to pay $0.99/€0.99/£0.79 for standard sound quality tracks with DRM still applied. Complete albums from EMI Music artists purchased on the iTunes Store will automatically be sold at the higher sound quality and DRM-free, with no change in the price. The new higher-quality, DRM-free songs will be available in May.

A few thoughts:

  • Interesting compromise on Apple’s part. They’ve long resisted raising the prices on singles, but they’re going to $1.29 with two significant improvements: double the encoding bitrate and no DRM. I’d buy that for thirty cents. They’re going to allow upgrades for existing song purchases, too.

  • So much for accusations that Jobs was full of shit with his “Thoughts on Music” essay. Clearly, Apple is willing to embrace DRM-free music sales, and they’re not going to wait for all of the major labels to agree before going forward with it.

  • Question: Will the indie record labels that have long sought to sell DRM-free music through iTunes be offered the same deal as EMI? Update: CNet reports that Jobs said, “Apple will reach out to all the major and independent labels to give them the same opportunity.”

  • Assuming those of us who think this is a smart move are correct, and that EMI’s sales go up, not down, it’ll be interesting to see how the other major labels react. Their worldview is based around the idea that they need more DRM, not less, and that DRM-free music sharing has been the source of their recent woes. Cold hard cash might snap them out of it.