Apple to offer DRM-Free music from major labels!

Starting with EMI in May '07 and with a hint that the other labels may join suit within the calendar year.

This is the first major step by any major in the music industry to drop copy protection.

The new songs will be 30 cents more than the DRM-restricted ones (that will continue to be available) but will be encoded at a higher rate resulting in better sound quality.

And note this is NOT an April Fool’s joke. I thoght it was because the initial reports I saw had 01 April as the date, but the press releases are dated April 2.

While I certainly appreciate EMI’s effort to not lock in (or villainize) its customers on iTunes, I thought most people already got around the DRM though a simple process of burning the tracks to CD (upon which they have a portable copy available for the car or as backup), then ripping back as DRM free files.

I’ll be interested to see if that extra $0.30 per song is worth it to customers who want to avoid the mild inconvenience of the burn-and-rip.

The burn-and-rip further degrades the quality of the already poor files that iTunes offers currently. I would definitely consider the 30 extra cents.

Not to imply that I use the burn-and-rip technique. It’s not even worth it, IMO. It’s just that I haven’t used 128 kbps mp3s since probably the early days of Napster.

A good point.

I am one of those dinosaurs who buys physical media, then rips it myself, usually at 192kbps, so I wasn’t even considering the data loss angle.

I love this, especially since they’re supposedly keeping the price of full albums at $9.99. I’m an album completist, and $9.99 is way too much for a DRM-saddled 128k rip of an album when I can get the CD for a few bucks more. It’s not bad for a good DRM-free rip, though.

The music business has come a long way since a few years ago when they were trying to put DRM restrictions on legally purchased CDs.

Except that the iTunes store sells 128 kbps AAC files, not MP3, which is a much more efficient standard then MP3.

128 kbps AAC is approximately equivalent to 192 kbps MP3.

AAC is an open format, by the way - it stands for Advanced Audio Codec. A large number of non-Apple players support it, including the Zune and that Sansa thingy.

256 kbps AAC should be quite good. Steve Jobs really scored a coup here - this will get the EU off his back and kill every competing music store at the same time.

That’s assuming that lots of people are actually willing to pay 30 cents more for 256 kbps. Most people can’t tell the difference between that and the lower-quality format. Quite frankly, I suspect that most audiophiles can’t either, but they’ve convinced themselves otherwise.

I’m quite surprised that they’re going to offer upgrades from the existing songs to the DRM-free ones.

I bought 2 songs on iTunes prior to this, but I might actually pay for DRM-free music. Or I might not. You can get used cds for < $5, and they work in my car.

I’d do it. If I do have to transcode it, better to start with a higher bitrate and 30 cents isn’t all that much anyway. Plus, it’s easier than trying to keep updated with the right DRM stripping software everytime Apple makes a change.