At a press conference today in London, England, EMI and Apple announced that they will sell unDRMd music starting in May, 2007. Sorry for the scattered look of all of this, but I wanted to get it posted as fast as possible:

Quick notes:

Jobs: Need to take online music distribution to the next level:

* need to address interoperability

* audio quality: new versions of songs, higher quality 256kbps AAC $1.29 / track. easily upgrade entire library for $0.30/song; album = same price.

EMI: DRM music is going to be available to all retailers.

Jobs: Apple reaching out to other labels–hopes 1/2 of songs will be DRM free by the end of the year. The right thing for the customer in the future is to tare down the walls of interoperability.

Q: Is this more complicated for consumers?
Jobs: People are going to have a choice and set iTunes to pick one. We don’t want to take away anything–want to give consumers the choice. We think consumers are going to choose the higher quality.

Q: How will this impact the iPod/iTunes relationship?
Jobs:Always been able to play the mp3s. We compete on best music store.

Consumer groups:
Jobs: not offering anything here today that consumers can’t get already on a CD.

Are you giving green light to file sharers?
EMI: “need to trust consumers” this doesn’t diminish fight against piracy, key is to give consumers a compelling experience, trust them, educate them, grow sales rather than diminish them.

EMI: hopes that this will grow sales–the main point of doing it.

Jobs: EMI is pioneering something that I Think is going to be very popular.

Jobs: We’re not offering something different. All CDs are provided unprotected and in high quality. Protecting CDs–Sony tried that, it didn’t work out so well.

Q: Are other majors standing in the way of this?
Jobs: There are always leaders ad there are always followers. opportunity for everyone to win: customers win; music companies get more money by providing more value.

Video DRM free?
Jobs: Video is different. They don’t offer video DRM free today, so I wouldn’t hold them parallel right now.

Do you expect fall in iPod sales:
Jobs: No link broken. Always been able to rip and copy to iTunes and put on the player they want to. No real link. Success based on whether people think we have the best and easiest to use music store and music players. Not going to do anything different. Want to be the best music store and the music player.

What’s the point of DRM on cheaper tracks, why not remove it completely?
Jobs: For customers that are price sensitive, we don’t want to tell them that we’re taking something away from them.
EMI: not everyone cares about sound quality.

Will consumers feel cheated?
Jobs: music lovers have a choice, they can go whatever way they want to go. More choice. Life is a balance between total freedom and simplicity. Try to strike the maxims–we think we’ve done a good job of that.

How will it work with other music services?
EMI: we only set wholesale prices. We hope this will help to generate growth.

File size on iPods because of larger file size?
Storage sizes go up prices go down.

How can you justify 20% increase in price?
Jobs: exactly same price as yesterday. New product offers more features, higher sound quality; more flexibility, so higher price. Consumer gets to choose.

Official press announcement here:

There are 15 comments on BREAKING: Apple goes DRM free with EMI songs: notes from announcement:

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  1. Bruce | Apr 02 2007 - 07:35

    I can’t believe I’m reading this. How freaking cool! My only gripe is the price increase. It’s still not CD quality so why the price hike? I wonder if people will be willing to pay extra for the higher quality and no DRM?

    Very cool that you can upgrade your current tracks, but again I’m not too happy about having to pay. THe record companies have told us time and again that we don’t buy music, we buy licenses to play music. I already bought a license to play the DRM song so why do I have to for another license to play a non DRM song? Doens’t make sense to me. At least it’s a small fee. But it still irratates me to no end.

    This is a a great beginning. A new day has dawned.

  2. Bruce | Apr 02 2007 - 07:29

    Wait. This isn’t an April Fools is it?

  3. Eye Doc | Apr 02 2007 - 08:57

    This is awesome. I have personally restricted my music buying on iTunes for exactly these 2 reasons, DRM and 125kps.

    Now I am sure I will buy more music, and to be precise more EMI music.

  4. Lior | Apr 02 2007 - 08:26

    Way to go !

  5. Rene | Apr 02 2007 - 08:10

    I hope that Warner, Sony BMG and Universal will follow not treating buying customers as criminals anymore. If and when that happens, they can reallocate the huge investments in DRM technology to go after the real pirates. This is good for consumers and musicians and bad for pirates like all-of-mp3.

  6. Tracy | Apr 02 2007 - 10:11

    Note that there is NOT a price hike on DRM-free album downloads.

    Nice :-)

  7. Shawn | Apr 02 2007 - 06:41

    Too bad the EU is investigating Apple & EMI for anti-trust law violations… possibly in illegal pricing associated with the 30 cent boost.

  8. EOM | Apr 02 2007 - 07:52

    Steve jobs will forever be my main man. Still standing his ground on customers and audiophiles first and business second.

    I am prod to be and apple customer and supporting apple. At least they know me as a customer matters.

  9. Rozza | Apr 02 2007 - 08:53

    and better audio quality too! yay!

  10. Janne | Apr 03 2007 - 03:13

    “Too bad the EU is investigating Apple & EMI for anti-trust law violations… possibly in illegal pricing associated with the 30 cent boost.”

    No they are not. They are investigating them because consumers can’t buy songs from other countries stores. For example, people in UK can’t buy music from the German store.

  11. Rene | Apr 03 2007 - 04:43

    The possible reason why Apple has different versions of the iTunes Store in different countries, is because the copyright laws differ among member states of the EU. Furthermore, each member state has its own organization to deal with collecting payments for copyrights, so there is no unified way to set up an EU iTunes Store.

    The EU should clean up its own act before asking companies to comply with a patchwork of inconsistent copyright laws.

  12. Nathan | Apr 04 2007 - 04:57

    Aw, c’mon Bruce: Still not CD quality? Aren’t you being a bit picky there? Who the heck is going to be able to tell the difference? (without perfect hearing and a good sound system + sound room.) Besides, if you buy the CD, you can buy the full album on iTunes for the regular price (the increased price is only for individual songs.)

    192kbit mp3 was the highest quality I could ever be bothered encoding. 256kbit aac will be fine in my book. In fact, I’ll probably sample it down to 196kbit or 160, depending on the disk-space savings. I’m sold on this. Awesome awesome move.

  13. Benny | Apr 11 2007 - 01:02

    So you get to pick one of two choices :

    – more expensive, DRM free, higher quality music that will require more space on your IPOD (and therefor generally speaking will lead to sales of more ‘higher capacity’ IPODs.
    – DRM inclined music that will ONLY play on IPODs

    DRM or no DRM is now a matter of money and you’ll have your haves and your have-nots.
    By this step those that don’t want to spend the extra money (or can’t) will find that what was perceived by common knowledge as a fair fact till a few days ago – music should be DRM free-, will now find that the ‘haves’ have no incentive anymore to support that right.
    Much of the anti-DRM lobby’s power is broken but it’s still not fair.

    Right out of the Romans book : “Divide and conquer”, the Apple/EMI way.

  14. Vidya Nath | Apr 12 2007 - 12:35

    I agree with Nathan. As an aside, one area that Apple seems to ignore is its huge iPod user base in APAC. Their iTunes purchase policies are so rigid, consumers in these regions dont have too many options. Obviously sourcing music from other sources become easy.

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