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EMI and Apple Drop DRM and Offer Premium-Quality Audio

In a move that dramatically shifts the music label's relationship with its consumers, EMI and Apple today announced that forthcoming titles from EMI will be sold without digital rights management (DRM), the anti-piracy lock in place to prevent consumers from easily copying digital music tracks.

Nicoli_jobs_3The new DRM-free tracks will be offered at a higher price ($1.29 vs. $.99) and will be available alongside the current lower-priced offerings with DRM. In short, consumers will have a choice to buy DRM-free tracks for a small premium. The DRM-free tracks will also be higher sound quality. Current iTunes offerings are 128 kbps. The new tracks will be sold at a much-higher quality 256 kbps.

Eric Nicoli, CEO of EMI (pictured here with Damon Albarn of The Good, The Bad, and the Queen, and Steve Jobs), told reporters in a press conference in London this morning that the decision was based on consumer desire for good value, choice, and simplicity. Said Nicoli: "We're committed to embracing change...We're focusing on providing consumers with a truly compelling experience."

Apple's iTunes will be first to offer the new products. It was also announced that consumers will be able to upgrade their current tracks.

Steve Jobs called the move the "next big step forward" for digital music online. EMI is the first of the big four music companies to take the step. Entire catalog available in May on iTunes.

As far as a rumored offering of the Beatles catalog online, which many expected to happen today, Nicoli said: "We're working on it and we hope it's soon."

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  1. Good lord, current itunes tracks are 128 kbps at the REGULAR price? Anything below 256 sounds like garbage on a nice sound system (especially classical music). How the hell have they made so much money or not been criticized for this before?

    Posted by: scientitian | Apr 2, 2007 9:16:07 AM

  2. It's about damn time that someone in the music industry wises up and realizes that DRM is dead, consumers don't care about it or want it, and the only ones who are really concerned about it are the RIAA and Metallica.

    Here's hoping that the music labels die a swift death and we see more and more artists releasing music on their own.

    Posted by: Jonathon | Apr 2, 2007 9:19:16 AM

  3. Scientitian,

    I think when iTunes first came out people made the same complaints about the low encoding rate. For most people the 128kbps is fine for what they do with the down loaded tracks. 128 is good enough for most and iTunes does let you rip your own tracks at a higher bit rate.


    p.s. love the handle

    Posted by: James | Apr 2, 2007 10:29:30 AM

  4. I guess my criticism is that 99 cents per track is far more expensive than going out and buying the entire album on CD, and in that case there's the added cost of physically manufacturing and printing the album materials, and the audio is completely lossless. Apple is pulling in an awful lot of profit for such low quality music.

    Posted by: scientitian | Apr 2, 2007 11:03:53 AM

  5. Yes, this is more expensive than buying a CD, particularly on a per bit basis!

    Posted by: anon | Apr 2, 2007 1:12:17 PM

  6. @ Scientitian:

    Actually, Apple HAS been criticized for it lots of times. But they pretty much own the entire digital music market, so why should they care about a handful of whiners?

    I guess I'm just a little annoyed that you have to buy the latest $250 iPod to get gapless audio playback when it's nothing more than a FREE software update!

    Posted by: damien | Apr 2, 2007 3:41:04 PM

  7. I recall the claim, back in the last century, that the hi price of Cds would be dramatically lowered as they became more plentiful on the market.
    "The Great Rock n Roll Swindle" continues.

    Posted by: zabadak | Apr 2, 2007 5:26:03 PM

  8. i've said all along that paying for music downloads is a total scam. YOU provide all the hardware..YOU provide all the software.. YOU use up your time and energy.. and YOU end up with a lower-quality product, less any artwork/lyrics/etc, at a higher price. the technological wonder of our times ! and now, we get to pay even more for the privelege of being able to use our purchase as we please. lucky lucky us.

    Posted by: el polacko | Apr 2, 2007 5:40:37 PM

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