EMI Music and Apple have announced that they will offer consumers the the ability to purchase music free of digital rights management (DRM), which locks music downloads for use only on selected devices. In press releases (EMI, Apple), EMI announced that it will offer its entire digital music catalog DRM-free through iTunes starting May 2007, and henceforth through other retailers.
The DRM-free music will be released in higher quality, at 256 Kbps AAC, compared to the standard versions, which are encoded in 128 Kbps AAC. These will be sold at a higher price than their regular DRM-locked counterparts, at $1.29 apiece (€1.29/£0.99). Full albums and music videos, meanwhile, will be sold DRM-free and at the higher quality at their existing prices. Consumers also have a choice of purchasing DRM-locked tracks at the original prices ($0.99/€0.99/£0.79). Those who have already purchased the locked versions have the option of upgrading their existing downloads to the DRM-free, higher-quality version, for the price difference ($0.30/€0.30/£0.20 per track).
With DRM-free music from the EMI catalog, iTunes customers will have the ability to download tracks from their favorite EMI artists without any usage restrictions that limit the types of devices or number of computers that purchased songs can be played on. DRM-free songs purchased from the iTunes Store will be encoded in AAC at 256 kbps, twice the current bit rate of 128 kbps, and will play on all iPods, Mac® or Windows computers, Apple TVs and soon iPhones, as well as many other digital music players.
This move was brought about by research by EMI wherein majority of users surveyed (84%) stated the importance of being able to transfer and listen to their music across different devices. TechCrunch cites a few slides of the presentation here.
EMI’s CEO Eric Nicoli foresees a potential increase in digital music sales by making music more accessible and easier to use, regardless of what device consumers use.
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. 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’s Steve Jobs, meanwhile, reiterated his stand on DRM, stating that “Selling digital music DRM-free is the right step forward for the music industry.”