In the final Macworld Expo keynote Apple today introduced new computing and software products, and also confirmed long-standing claims that songs sold through iTunes from all four major labels are now to be made available DRM-free.
The company also announced that iTunes users can now download songs directly onto their iPhone 3G using their carrier’s 3G network.
In another move, presumably demanded by music labels in exchange for the DRM-free exercise, April 2009 will see the introduction of songs which will be made available at three price points – flexible pricing, in other words, long the sticking point to negotiations between Apple and the labels.
Beginning today, all four major music labels—Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Warner Music Group and EMI, along with thousands of independent labels, are now offering their music in iTunes Plus, Apple’s DRM-free format with higher-quality 256 kbps AAC encoding.
From April, songs sold through iTunes will be available at one of three price points: 59 pence, 79 pence and 99 pence, with most albums still priced at £7.99.
“We are thrilled to be able to offer our iTunes customers DRM-free iTunes Plus songs in high quality audio and our iPhone 3G customers the ability to download music from iTunes anytime, anywhere over their 3G network at the same price as downloading to your computer or via Wi-Fi,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “And in April, based on what the music labels charge Apple, songs on iTunes will be available at one of three price points—69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29—with many more songs priced at 69 cents than $1.29.”
Previously purchased songs can be upgraded to the higher quality DRM-free iTunes Plus format for just 20 pence per song or 30 per cent of the album price. The iTunes Store will begin offering eight million of its 10 million songs in Apple’s DRM-free format, with the remaining two million songs offered in iTunes Plus by the end of March.
Responding to the news, 7digital CEO Ben Drury observed: “Downloads from iTunes are still in the AAC file format regardless of whether they are DRM-free. 7digital.com prides itself on offering the MP3 universal download format, which works across any iPod, MP3 player or mobile phone. The AAC file format is only compatible with iPods/iPhones and a limited number of other devices. So consumers who buy downloads from iTunes are still restricted to where they can play that music regardless of whether it’s DRM free or not.”