The long-standing duel between Apple and three major labels, Universal, Warners and Sony BMG may be coming to an end, with tracks from these majors now showing up within the iTunes Plus music upgrade service.
There’s been strong rumours claiming negotiations between Apple and the labels to offer music at high quality free of restrictive DRM have intensified in recent weeks. Sony BMG is already thought to be uploading tracks to make available through iTunes Plus.
Overnight sundry spies have spotted tracks from the three hold-out majors popping up in the ‘Upgrade My Library’ section of iTunes, where users can upgrade their purchases from DRM’d to DRM-free tracks.
For example, Rakim’s rather special ‘The 18th Letter/The Book of Life’ is currently available to upgrade to iTunes Plus. The major label behind this release is, of course, Universal.
iTunes Plus was introduced in April 2007 with DRM-free tracks from EMI. The catalogue later grew to include music from many independent labels. While songs cost slightly more, they ship in higher-quality 256k bitrates. You can upgrade existing purchases for 20-pence.
Apple’s move to offer its full catalogue in DRM-free format opens the doors for a level playing field in digital music, with services including Amazon MP3 in the US and 7digital in the UK already offering tracks free of DRM in MP3 format for sale at the same price as an ordinary iTunes track.
Open to question at time of writing is whether Apple will compete on price by lowering iTunes Plus track prices to match existing standard downloads, and whether the company will make a major announcement on its plans later today. (Customarily, watch for an announcement around 1.30pm, well, if an announcement is to be made at all).
** Well, the day’s moving on and no official news yet – we’ve dropped an enquiry to Apple, and their lack of a response suggests at present these moves belong in the official ‘rumour and speculation’ department, it may be helpful if readers have a check to see what songs/artists from the three majors they can dig out using the ‘Upgrade’ feature in iTunes, and note them here. Hang in there.