EMI has been rumored for months to start licensing DRM-free tracks at a higher pricepoint. From today’s 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.
Apple’s iTunes Store (www.itunes.com) is the first online music store to receive EMI’s new premium downloads. Apple has announced that iTunes will make individual AAC format tracks available from EMI artists at twice the sound quality of existing downloads, with their DRM removed, at a price of $1.29/€1.29/£0.99. iTunes wil 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. 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.
When people a while ago requested that Apple start selling DRM-free content from independent labels, some Apple fans argued that Apple couldn’t do this because it would break consistency in iTunes and create consumer confusion. Now Apple is going to be selling some DRM-free music at a higher price point. So much for the consistency and confusion argument! It will be interesting to see how this offering will be branded in the iTunes Store (DRM-free or “Higher Quality”?).
EMI is the smallest of the four major record labels and is in the worst financial shape. More conservative labels such as Universal and Sony BMG are unfortunately not likely to follow anytime soon.
Will Steve Jobs follow up with “Thoughts on Movies”? Highly unlikely, although the thought of a Disney director calling for an end to video DRM is entertaining! Steve’s main argument in “Thoughts on Music” was that CDs don’t have DRM. The studios have always insisted on copy protection (Macrovision, CSS, AACS) and that’s not likely to change in our digital lifetime. Perhaps Steve will start drafting another manifesto after the Apple TV has 90% market share
Update: Steve’s Thoughts on Movies during the webcast:
Q: I take it then that you are going to be advocating the removal of the DRM of the videos you sell on iTunes. Any particular [inaudible] you could do that now with Disney given your involvement with the Disney company?
A: You know, video, uh… I knew I’d get that question today. Video is pretty different than music right now because the video industry does not distribute 90 percent of their content DRM free; never has, and so I think they are in a pretty different situation and so I wouldn’t hold the two in parallel at all.