EMI to release DRM-free tracks in iTunes

Woo-hoo! Check out the EMI press release!

London, 2 April 2007 -- EMI Music today announced that it is launching new premium downloads for retail on a global basis, making all of its digital repertoire available at a much higher sound quality than existing downloads and free of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions. The new higher quality DRM-free music will complement EMI's existing range of standard DRM-protected downloads already available. From today, EMI's retailers will be offered downloads of tracks and albums in the DRM-free audio format of their choice in a variety of bit rates up to CD quality. EMI is releasing the premium downloads in response to consumer demand for high fidelity digital music for use on home music systems, mobile phones and digital music players. EMI's new DRM-free products will enable full interoperability of digital music across all devices and platforms.

In iTunes Music Store, you pay 30c more to get the tracks without DRM - and you can upgrade DRM'd songs to be DRM-free by just paying the difference. And get this: it's gonna be 256kbps AAC - not the regular 128 kbps! That's good enough for archiving and format conversion for a long, long time in the future. I'm happy with that. This is what was asked for, this is what they are doing, and now it's up to the market forces to take this thing forward.

So, this means that the price of online music should settle at $1.29€/song, with cheaper versions available at different levels of cripplitude. I'm pretty sure that the $1.29€/song figure won't change for a long time (because traditionally, the price of music has not exactly gone down with new technologies), but it's still fine compared to new CD prices.

(Via, well, everywhere.)

Update: A surprisingly insightful comment from Slashdot, where someone wonders if this is going to kill Microsoft's music strategy, Windows Media, and Zune:

If all the labels offer their music DRM free by the end of the year, then what incentive is there for any online music store, except for the Zune store, to offer music in Windows Media format, given that the iPod is incompatible with WMA and represents about 80% of the target market.

Well, twenty percent of the player market is still quite a lot, and considering that many cell phones play happily both WMA and AAC, I don't know if it really matters. But this surely is going to change the dynamics of the marketplace.

Update2: Just realized that increased quality probably means watermarking. Oh well, as long as it's not audible and that they are open about it.




Comments

"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."

I guess the single track sales have somewhat hurt the album sales, at least for one-hit-wonders.

--Henri, 03-Apr-2007


Indeedy. I wonder how many good tracks do you have to have on an album before people download it completely? Two? Three? Four?

--JanneJalkanen, 03-Apr-2007


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