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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