iTunes goes DRM-free with variable pricing, OTA downloads for iPhone | iLounge News

iTunes goes DRM-free with variable pricing, OTA downloads for iPhone

Apple today announced that it has signed agreements with all the major music labels to offer their music in a DRM-free format on the iTunes Store. Like prior iTunes Plus tracks, all music will now be sold in DRM-free, 256kbps AAC format. Starting today, eight million songs are available; all ten million songs are expected to be available DRM-free by the end of the quarter. iTunes will offer customers a simple, one-click option to easily upgrade their entire library of previously purchased songs to the higher quality DRM-free iTunes Plus format for 30 cents per song or 30 percent of the album price. Beginning in April, and based on what the music labels charge Apple, songs will now be priced at one of three price points—$0.69, $0.99, and $1.29, with most albums still priced at $9.99. Finally, users are now able to download music from the iTunes Store on their iPhone 3G over the 3G network, removing the need for a Wi-Fi connection.

“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.”

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Since I tend to only purchase music made in the ‘60s thru ‘80s, this lower pricing, and higher-quality will benefit someone like me. For those folks who are into Top 40 music, I feel they will find the $1.29 price acceptable.  At the very least, audio quality is improved, and the DRM headaches will be gone.

Posted by Galley on January 6, 2009 at 1:55 PM (CST)


This is cool, but in my case, if i want to upgrade my iTunes library which i want to do, would cost $400 :(

Posted by Edgar Rodriguez on January 6, 2009 at 2:02 PM (CST)


I’m in a similar boat.  $728 to upgrade my library.  For those of us with large libraries, they need to provide a way to upgrade in smaller chunks.  As it stands, I won’t be upgrading anytime soon.

Posted by Rich on January 6, 2009 at 2:26 PM (CST)


Wake me up when iTunes sells music in Apple Lossless format.

Posted by Herr Doktor on January 6, 2009 at 2:45 PM (CST)


It would suck, however, to have to shell out several hundred dollars to upgrade your library. That is why I buy CDs; it’s already lossless and DRM-free.

Posted by Galley on January 6, 2009 at 3:16 PM (CST)


It’s probably an improvement over all, but it’s still obvious neither Apple nor the labels “get it”. Maybe, just maybe, the upgrade fee was justifiable when Apple (with the real credit going to EMI) was blazing new ground with iTunes Plus and the songs cost a premium over the DRM tracks, but now? This is exactly why I don’t buy music from the iTunes store. It’s a digital file that costs virtually nothing to host and a fractional cent to deliver, but they’re going to charge a 30% fee to upgrade? The mind reels. The consumers that made the iTS a success get charged what amounts to extortion to free their music from DRM. If anything, they should be offered free upgrades, or if they choose to remain shackled to Apple’s DRM authentication servers, reimbursed for having paid full price for considerably less than those purchasing iTunes Plus tracks today and in the future.

And when Apple and the labels buy themselves a clue and begin offering lossless files, which, ironically are often cheaper for the consumer but less profitable to the labels, what will they charge the users to upgrade then? The labels are intentionally taking advantage of the combination of ignorance and laziness in the average consumer to repeat the cycle of format upgrades. The difference being that, in the past, the move from vinyl, 8-tracks, cassettes, and CDs was necessitated by the technology, but now it’s simply a corporate greed created mouse wheel.

Posted by Code Monkey on January 6, 2009 at 4:11 PM (CST)


No friggin way I’m going to spend $120 to upgrade all my DRM tracks.  As has been said, they NEED to allow individual album upgrading!!

Posted by Randy on January 6, 2009 at 4:26 PM (CST)


Huh. A bunch of the music I have must be included in the remaining 2 million tracks. I have the U2 Complete boxed set from iTunes and it isn’t included in my available update. I think I will be pulling the trigger as there are only like 3 tracks I don’t really care about updating. $10 well spent for me.

Posted by Seth D. on January 6, 2009 at 5:07 PM (CST)


A great change moving to DRM free 256kb/s files, but I hope they take more care with them than the +Plus files. Though they also lack DRM many +Plus files I’ve bought have been crappy 128 AAC files crudely up-sampled to 256. You can hear the poorer sound and the low cut-off frequency is visible in a sound editor.

Posted by Svenska Mark on January 6, 2009 at 5:12 PM (CST)


Don’t believe the hype.  It’s not just ‘new, popular songs’ that are $1.29.  It’s just ‘popular songs’ that are $1.29.

You can bet, unless you have rather eclectic music tastes, you will be paying more for the music you want now, than you would before.

And you can bet, now that Apple has given in on variable pricing, the Amazon discount will disappear soon.  Sure, the odd song may be cheaper on one music service vs another, but now that the dam has burst and Apple has given in on a 30% price hike, the vast majority of music stores will now see pricing parity with iTMS.

Particularly given the current economic crisis, I can see more kids turning back to file sharing again for their music…

Posted by dave on January 6, 2009 at 5:59 PM (CST)


The question will be how long until Amazon has to uptake variable pricing, or will that be the thing that labels give amazon to try to unseat iTunes?

One bad thing I notice is that I have quite a few protected tunes that don’t show up in my upgrade packaged but ARE in iTunes plus on the store. When you click through from iTunes you get “Item is not currently available in the US store” So whatever I purchased must of been out and in and so now doesn’t register…

The upgrade prices certainly feel like highway robbery. I wish you could at least choose. “upgrade songs” verse “upgrade albums” For instance I’m not really concerned about my “singles” but would like to upgrade all the full albums I purchased. I can understand they don’t want 30 cents here, 30 cents there, but I wish I could get more control over the upgrade process. Only 75 bucks for me right now, but it’s only like 269 out of a potential 1,000 I have.

Posted by studogvetmed on January 6, 2009 at 6:33 PM (CST)


Apple has always said that consumers don’t want a subscription based service.  That they want to “own” their music.  But here’s my 2 cents.

I’m an 18 year old that has always loved Apple products.  They have a history of providing products that are intuitive and make enjoying and creating media.  Their itunes program has been a huge success and serves as a great partner to their amazingly easy to use and successful ipod family.  As a result, consumers, many of them around my age, have been exposed to a scope of music far wider than consumers of even as recent as 20 years ago. 

Unfortunately, most people can’t afford to buy all the albums they want at $9.99 a piece from the itunes store.  So they turn to file sharing services, leaving the artists who make the music with no money to show for their work. 

But if Apple were to add a subscription based service, most people would be willing to shell out a few bucks a month for unlimited downloads.  People want to have the ease of use, wide range of content, accurate tagging, and consistent encoding quality of the itunes store but can’t afford it.  People also want to be able to legally download their music and give back to the artists that they love.

And to take the idea a step further, having a tiered service would be ideal.  That way customers could pay more and also be able to rent or buy tv shows and movies.  This would make the Apple TV a lot more appealing to a wider range of people because with the wide range of content available on the itunes store, many people could cancel their cable/satellite service.

This is a potentially do-able plan.  Apple just needs to go back to its roots of caring about and fighting for their customers instead of catering to the business models of other large corporations, like they have here with the record labels.

Posted by Kyle M on January 6, 2009 at 7:03 PM (CST)


I was ready to pull the trigger and spend $47 to upgrade my library, but then I decided to click on an album that I had already bought. The price is the same as what I paid, yet a buyer today would get it as iTunes Plus, while I have to pay extra. Why is this? The studio and artist already got the same cut as they would whether a person bought the album with or without iTunes Plus. Why should I have to pay 30% more? I could understand if the album’s price did go up today after it went DRM-free, but it did not. No thanks. I’ll wait a few months to see how this all shakes down. Who knows, maybe enough people roar, Apple will change their pricing policies.

I don’t even want to think about how much my “penalty fee” would be if I didn’t start buying from Amazon…

Posted by Wes on January 6, 2009 at 7:52 PM (CST)


i just downloaded the single of the week off of itunes mobile store it took about 3 min. to download so i thought that was a good little bonus to the music store

Posted by phillip on January 6, 2009 at 7:53 PM (CST)


forgot to add that it was on an edge connection

Posted by phillip on January 6, 2009 at 7:55 PM (CST)


Let’s say I bought a 4 gig iPod “X” last year at $100. Six months later the 8 gig iPod “X” sells for the same price. Apple offers to upgrade my iPod “X” to 8 gigs for an extra $30, instead of having to pay the full price for a new 8 gig. Sounds like a deal to me.

Don’t try to tell me it’s different.

Posted by Warren Piece on January 6, 2009 at 8:41 PM (CST)


Here in Canada upgrades are $0.40 for songs and $0.80 for videos. I know this is the-world’s-smallest-violin-playing-a-sad-sad-song to UK iTunes users who pay more for their music than US users, but this is the first time I can recall songs being priced differently in Canada vs. the US.

Posted by ~Wednesday~ on January 6, 2009 at 9:30 PM (CST)


by Warren Piece: “Don’t try to tell me it’s different.”

I won’t, because if you equate a license to listen to music that you technically never can own, a license that happens to be associated with a small sum of 1s and 0s that cost effectively $0 to manufacture and deliver with the overwhelming costs for Apple related to the insane amount of advertising they engage in to resell someone else’s intellectual property for a cut, to something as tangible as even a toothpick, let alone an iPod, you would also believe the world was flat and the sky purple with polkadots if only a nice corporation told you so.

The problem is that Apple and the labels want it both ways. When we want to do what we want with the music they cry foul and claim we’ve only a limited license to use their intellectual property as they see fit, but when something as trivial and nearly free as letting customers upgrade file quality for something far more reflective of the actual cost to Apple (probably around $0.005 per track), they reverse course and claim we purchased a distinct item and now we should be happy they’re letting us get such a killer price on these “new” distinct items. Sorry, this isn’t physics where a photon can behave as both particle and wave, this is a marketplace, and so long as all the rules favor the corporation over me, smart people will stick to acquiring music from lossless sources where no one will ever be able to stop them from doing what they want with it and they’ll never have to worry about upgrade fees because they already have everything there is to have.

Posted by Code Monkey on January 7, 2009 at 12:43 AM (CST)


As much as I love the iTunes store layout and functionality, I started buying from Amazon a while ago because the files are better quality and are DRM free mp3’s.  I like old school MP3’s over AAC.  I too am pissed that if I want to go DRM free on already purchased itunes music I have to pay 0.30 cents per song and the person buying the same song today doesn’t pay a premium.

I’ll stick with Amazon.

Posted by JZ on January 7, 2009 at 3:13 AM (CST)


Apple needs to offer itunes + upgrades by album, artist or song, not by the entire library.  The problem is I’ve already upgraded through CD or Amazon MP3 and will not pay $119 to upgrade my entire library.  I’m sure they’ll get around to this at the point they realize that $0.30 of something is more than 100% of $0.

Posted by ab on January 7, 2009 at 3:54 AM (CST)

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