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iTunes to offer DRM-free music from EMI

updated 08:35 am EDT, Mon April 2, 2007

DRM-free music on iTunes

At the special event in London on Monday, EMI Music announced that it is launching new premium downloads for retail on a global basis, making all of its digital music available at a much higher sound quality than existing downloads and free of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions and that Apple iTunes Store will be the first retailer to offer the higher quality, DRM-free 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.

Consumers who have already purchased standard tracks or albums with DRM will be able to upgrade their digital music for $0.30/0.30/0.20 per track. All EMI music videos will also be available on the iTunes Store DRM-free with no change in price.

The new higher quality DRM-free music will complement EMI's existing range of standard DRM-protected downloads already available. Starting 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, the company said. "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," the company said. "EMI's new DRM-free products will enable full interoperability of digital music across all devices and platforms."

"Our goal is to give consumers the best possible digital music experience. By providing DRM-free downloads, we aim to address the lack of interoperability which is frustrating for many music fans," said Eric Nicoli, CEO of EMI Group. "We believe that offering consumers the opportunity to buy higher quality tracks and listen to them on the device or platform of their choice will boost sales of digital music.

"Apple have been a true pioneer in digital music, and we are delighted that they share our vision of an interoperable market that provides consumers with greater choice, quality, convenience and value for money."

"Selling digital music DRM-free is the right step forward for the music industry," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "EMI has been a great partner for iTunes and is once again leading the industry as the first major music company to offer its entire digital catalogue DRM-free."

EMI also announced that is introducing a new wholesale price for premium single track downloads, while maintaining the existing wholesale price for complete albums. EMI expects that consumers will be able to purchase higher quality DRM-free downloads from a variety of digital music stores within the coming weeks, with each retailer choosing whether to sell downloads in AAC, WMA, MP3 or other unprotected formats of their choice. Music fans will be able to purchase higher quality DRM-free digital music for personal use, and listen to it on a wide range of digital music players and music-enabled phones.

EMI's move follows a series of experiments it conducted recently. Norah Jones's "Thinking About You", Relient K's "Must've Done Something Right", and Lily Allen's "Littlest Things" were all made available for sale in the MP3 format in trials held at the end of last year.

EMI Music will continue to employ DRM as appropriate to enable innovative digital models such as subscription services (where users pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to music), super-distribution (allowing fans to share music with their friends) and time-limited downloads (such as those offered by ad-supported services).

"Protecting the intellectual property of EMI and our artists is as important as ever, and we will continue to work to fight piracy in all its forms and to educate consumers," Nicoli added. "We believe that fans will be excited by the flexibility that DRM-free formats provide, and will see this as an incentive to purchase more of our artists' music."

By Electronista Staff
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  1. Guest

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 1999



    I really hope this pushes the other record companies to finally produce DRM free music. This should also keep Apple on their toes to keep the iPod as the best music player out there.

  1. Zwilnik

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Oct 1999


    it's a start

    It's good news, although I'd like to see the UK (and European) price reflect the US price a little more. At 99p a track we'll be paying $2 a track for the premium tracks, despite them being exactly the same data with no import duties, production/shipping costs or (possibly) VAT.

    Fortunately, as Steve mentioned, I've got the choice of sticking with the slightly less overpriced 79p tracks as I'm not bothered about the DRM and I'm old enough that my ears can't spot the difference between 128k and 256k AAC anyway :)

  1. bobolicious

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Aug 2002


    Why is DRM so hot...

    ...when music quality is likely the issue that affects everyone even on a simple tonal/equalization basis?

    Is 'twice the quality' really just twice the codec rating ie 256vbr? Perhaps Apple could find a way to offer 'better than cd' quality to justify an upcharge?

  1. Guntis

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Sep 2004



    256kbps is finally here and that's really good news for me - finally I'll be able to buy something that sounds good! I just hope that they will offer Apple Lossless (AL) as well. I'd go for AL and then convert to mp3 for iPod, while keeping AL in iTunes for home Hi-Fi.

  1. adrianm

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 2005



    ... will Microsoft be selling DRM-free music from EMI on its Zune store any time soon? Will it be in WMA format (a barrier to interoperability) or will they choose AAC/MPEG4? Hopefully we'll not go back to MP3.

  1. dynsight

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2005


    Don't Ruin It

    I made the same comment on another board... This is a nice start, and I hope a bunch of idiots don't start downloading DRM free music and posting it on their web site for their slacker friends to download.

    Music is not free, and when these dweebs are confronted about it, they sheepishly admit that it is stealing but no one is really harmed. They can never offer a reasonable, justifiable reason for their theft.

    NO I do not work for the Record companies, and I think they are slimy and charge way too much for their product ($.60 a song and maybe $5 an album is good). And the artists should get a much larger cut, BUT that does not justify stealing.

    If you cannot afford the music, get a job, work harder save your pennies.

    This is a little tiny baby step, so if the consumers manage it properly, there will be larger strides to compromise in the future.

  1. doemel

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2006


    Re: don't ruin it

    Hello? This alleged bunch of idiots has done exactly that for ages. Welcome to the 'net. The step (not that "little tiny" if you consider all the consequences and what is at stake for EMI) can be seen as admitting failure (DRM) and givin the customer more incentive to buy the music rather than pirate it. The deal on iTMS so far just hasn't been cutting it for me. This decision finally makes the iTMS a serious alternative for my music purchases (which up till now have been limited to vinyl and CDs). They have gained at least one more customer.




    No lossless

    While today's announcement is certainly great news, I am a little disappointed they won't be offering lossless audio.

  1. GORDYmac

    Mac Elite

    Joined: Dec 1999


    never satisfied...

    First, people griped about 128 AAC, now it's up to 256 AAC and you want lossless. Geesh! Some people...

  1. malax

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2006


    a win-win

    Consumers (who want it) can pay a little extra for higher-quality, no DRM tracks.

    Record companies can get a little more money for their product, without a general price increase.

    Apple get an excellent excuse against Eurocrat meddling (remember Steve insisted that Apple would drop DRM if the record companies would allow it).

    Personally, I don't know what I'll do when confronted with this choice. I'm pretty sure I can't hear the difference, so it comes down to the DRM-lock-in issue.

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