EMI Music launches DRM-free superior sound quality downloads

It was just a matter of time, but it finally happened. One of the major labels (EMI currently stands at number three) jumped ship and will be offering DRM free music. This isn’t a case of offering some tracks without DRM or a limited time deal – this is across its entire digital repertoire. Even better, while iTunes will be the first online music store to offer the DRM-less downloads, more are definitively on the way. Consumers will finally have real choices available to them. From the press release:

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 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. 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.

EMI 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.

Kudos to EMI for being the first one willing to do this. You have to wonder how long the other labels can hold out now. The rules of the game are changing here and April 2 may be remembered as the day DRM died (at least in the context of online music). Policies and practices that are anti-consumer always eventually fail. DRM wasn’t going to be any exception. While some people will always pirate music, the vast majority do not want to rip off artists. Make it difficult, or in some cases impossible, to legitimately consume your music though and they will route around you. It will be fascinating to see how this impacts online music sales and the labels in general. It will also be interesting to see how services like Amie Street and Magnatune (both quality services that you should check out) are impacted.

–jeremy

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3 Responses to EMI Music launches DRM-free superior sound quality downloads

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  3. corey says:

    This is great! This means less work for those of us who have been trying to play music they’ve purchased that won’t play on their portable devices. I’m just thinking of the plethora of cellphones that are being released with mp3 players built into them.

    Now, if EMI would only give more to the artist, then I wouldn’t have to work as hard to find a direct way to buy from the band or singer.

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