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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Wow, almost €500 to upgrade my library, Apple? And this is your ‘Special Offer’?!

Looking at that figure, I hate to think what I have spent on DRMed iTunes tracks over the last few years. What can I say, I love music, love the handiness of iTunes and I paid for what I paid for but, after spending that much, €500 to upgrade my tracks to what are now standard seems a bit like a kick in the pants.

I’d consider upgrading some, even at that ‘Special Offer’ price, but only some and, for that to happen, they’d have to offer individual track or album upgrades. Chucking a €500 price tag at me as a ‘take it or leave it’ offer just doesn’t work for me.

Posted by BeefJerky on January 7, 2009 at 6:00 AM (CST)


$165.30 yesterday for 599 songs
$225.30 today for 799 songs
I have 2154 total iTunes DRM songs

What will it be tomorrow?

Posted by Derrick Moore on January 7, 2009 at 10:20 AM (CST)


I purchased an album (We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.- Jason Mraz) yesterday after the announcement and after the upgrade option became available.  I was reluctant but I gave in an bought it even though it was not iTunes Plus.  2 hours later its available for upgrade.  If that doesn’t qualify as being shafted I don’t know what does. 

Apple should atleast offer free upgrades for music purchased after the announcement was made especially because they are updating music to iTunes Plus in a trickle.

Posted by Sam on January 7, 2009 at 12:59 PM (CST)


Sam, no offense, but given the announcement that 8 Million now, the rest by end of quarter. Any person who would buy ANY DRM tracks between now and the end of the quarter deserves the upgrade fee.

Caveat emptor

Posted by studogvetmed in Loveland, CO on January 7, 2009 at 2:06 PM (CST)


As has been mentioned earlier…I was glad to see that us original non 3G iPhone owners can also access and download from the iTunes Music Store while merely on the EDGE network.  Not that I plan to do it often but I was feeling a little left out when I first read the announcement.

Posted by TosaDeac on January 7, 2009 at 3:01 PM (CST)


This is a huge win for Amazon.  They already have 256.  Why should I pay more because iTunes can’t deliver?

Posted by Andy on January 8, 2009 at 10:00 AM (CST)


iTunes has had some 256 for a while too, though no where near as much as Amazon, though the most interesting thing is when I really wanted something DRM free, I could not find what I wanted on Amazon, but it was at least on iTunes for DRM, but well, I’d go buy the CD mostly.

As much as I’d like to see Amazon succeed, this is not a big win for them. iTunes was still winning the battle in spite of the DRM and in spite of the vocal minority crying out for it to be removed. Even if prices increase a little bit, I still forsee iTunes remaining rather dominant. I mean Amazon has had cheaper prices, higher quality and no DRM for how long now and have been unable to unseat the popularity of iTunes. The thing against amazon is too that it remains US only from what I have seen.

There are still songs in Amazon that aren’t in iTunes and vice versa. And now it will only be a matter of time before the labels try to decide if a different tiered pricing system is what they want at Amazon.

The thing I love the most about Amazon on their killer daily deals. Where you can get a full album for as long as .99 depending on the band/day/etc. I’ve caught quite a few great deals through that. (follow amazonmp3 on twitter).

And as far as higher prices, they don’t go into affect until april, so buy now for .99, though you may miss out on any that may decrease to .69

Posted by studogvetmed in Loveland, CO on January 8, 2009 at 10:31 AM (CST)


Kids, don’t you know MP3 will always be better than AAC just for universal compatibility?

Posted by Mike on January 8, 2009 at 2:08 PM (CST)


AAC is playing on more and more devices, but to each their own.

Posted by studogvetmed in Loveland, CO on January 8, 2009 at 2:20 PM (CST)


Yeah, the universal compatibility thing is a red herring for people looking to dis Apple (there’s plenty of legit subject matter for that so no need to make things up ;)).

Assuming proper encoders (Nero/iTunes AAC, LAME mp3) there is no benefit whatsoever at similar bitrate settings for either format. Personally, if I have to choose, unless they’re going to tell me what mp3 encoder is used, I would choose the iTS AAC files because too many times I’ve seen these “professional” mp3 releases encoded with FhG, and that’s just sad from my p.o.v.

With Sansa, iRiver, and Cowon the only brands of note still not natively supporting AAC, if you’re willing to pay for lossy encodes, might as well get whatever format you want. By the time it becomes an issue, the money is on at Sansa and Cowon supporting AAC and all bets are off if iRiver will even still be considered a company of note.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on January 8, 2009 at 2:48 PM (CST)


I don’t understand why Apple has to charge its loyal customers to pay for an upgrade. Many of the songs I have are still $.99, if I were to buy them today. Why should I have to spend an additional $.30, bringing my grand total to $1.29 per song? It’s not really an upgrade, just a rip off.

Posted by Nate on January 8, 2009 at 5:54 PM (CST)


If the 128 AAC was 99 cents, and the Plus version is also 99 cents, then why are they charging 30 cents to upgrade it? 

They need to offer the option of upgrading only the songs you want, when you want.  This “all-or-nothing” approach is off-putting.

Here’s a few examples of why I won’t be upgrading anytime soon:

A lot of the songs I downloaded were Pepsi Cap promotional codes or Free Songs Of The Week.  With this upgrade, I would be paying for songs that were otherwise free. 

Certain songs, I don’t want/need in Plus quality . . . such as audiobooks or comedy albums (which are mostly spoken word).  Audiobooks, specifically, I probably won’t listen to more than once and upgrading is a waste.

Final reason:  what’s going to happen if/when Apple decides to offer Lossless downloads?  Will we have to pay to upgrade again?

Posted by James Hartson on January 8, 2009 at 6:32 PM (CST)


My favorite from my own library is Linkin Park’s Minutes to Midnight album.  I bought it for $10.89 on pre-order, it’s now 7.99 for the Plus version - but it’s not offered to me for upgrade at all.  I’ve already paid a 30% premium but I’d have to re-purchase at full price! 

Funny thing is, since I don’t have a ton of purchased content (from iTunes) I would have paid to do the library upgrade, so it’s frustrating and non-sensicle to not even be offered the ability to upgrade even though it’s available in the plus format. None of the free singles I’ve downloaded were even offered to be upgraded either.

It’s this type of disdain for customers that makes music piracy so unsurprising…

Posted by WhoCares on January 9, 2009 at 12:43 AM (CST)


Like many others, I checked the iTunes Plus upgrade feature to find it would cost me $40 to upgrade my copyprotected library to DRM free and I couldn’t upgrade individual songs.

This is no “special deal”.  Apple is doing us no favors here.  I’ve entirely switched to buying from Amazon where the prices are always at or below iTunes and the quality equal to or better than iTunes.  Frankly, Apple had no choice but to adjust to remain competitive.

If Apple allows me to update individual songs, I may return to iTunes.

Posted by DJ on January 9, 2009 at 6:24 AM (CST)


Part of what we are paying for is bandwidth costs.

Some people will find the upgrade price worth it for twice the quality and no DRM. Others won’t.

I am also finding that some albums I have that are “plus” are not showing up available for upgrade. I find that most of these are “not available” when you click on the iTunes arrows in your library. My example is Five For Fightings Two LIghts that I paid 11.99 for that is now available for 9.99. It’s available in iTunes plus but not on my upgrade list…

Some good news, I paid $30 for a live album of Barenaked Ladies. It is now currently $25, the upgrade price is based on 30% of that, not my original purchase price.

On the flip side, I bought another album at 7.99 and it’s now 9.99 and I’m paying the upgrade based on the 9.99

So really, people would want to upgrade their stuff before April first when the tiered pricing comes through…. I think we are going to see some album price changes likely….

Posted by studogvetmed in Loveland, CO on January 10, 2009 at 11:29 AM (CST)


“Part of what we are paying for is bandwidth costs.”

No, not in any real sense. Delivery of a fully lossless album would be much less than $0.10 per album, probably only a few cents at the sort of scale a corporation like Apple pays for bandwidth. These lossy tracks are fractions of a cent to deliver. Further, even if we were to assume that you, and you alone, were the only person EVER to buy a given album, the server storage would still come to less than $0.01 per album. This puts storage and deliver (assuming only one sale per album ever) at around $0.01, $0.02 tops. In other words, the price to buy it the first time is already magnitudes greater than the actual cost to Apple. Even if you assume the label takes $7 of every $10 album, that still leaves Apple with a gross profit of at least $2.97 just on the initial delivery, letting you download the new version would cost them, at most, another $0.02 per album, and that’s assuming, again, that you are the ONLY sale that album ever makes.

Whatever carping Apple makes about barely making a profit on the iTS, it’s not the intrinsic costs, but rather their obscene levels of advertising and whatever their legal wrangling costs are that are hurting the free money flowing into their coffers.

I fail to understand how Apple has the cojones to charge another 30% on top of things - my guess is that the labels arent’ getting a cut of this 30%, which, not coincidentally, would be putting another $2.97 or so in Apple’s coffers. In other words, if my guess is right, their special price is actually 100% of *Apple’s* price, there is no discount whatsoever.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on January 10, 2009 at 1:51 PM (CST)


I only buy cd’s and guess what?

They sound better than any digital download.
I can play them anywhere.
I can rip them as often as I like to any bitrate I want .
I can put them on any DAP I want.
I can back them up as often as I like.
I never loose them when a hard drive fails or I change computers.

And best of all I never get screwed over after making the purchase.

Try them
You’ll like them :D

Posted by Ericc B on January 11, 2009 at 3:28 AM (CST)


I will concede the idea that bandwidth may be pennies for apple given their size. I also will concede that the upgrade fee is ludicrous and I’m guilty of falling trap to it on multiple occasions, but certainly I’m not falling for it this time. I chuckle at those complaining about $40 for library upgrade. I’m at $113, my brother $240.

The one thing I have is that I accept what I have. Apple or the Labels are under no obligation to provide us with the new products at all. And really I suppose it shouldn’t be looked at as an “upgrade” as a “discount” on purchasing the “new” product. I mean I can’t get an upgrade price for John Mayer’s Deluxe version of Continuum in stores after I bought the initial release, right? Of course at least it has “additional” content that could be worth paying for. In the case of going to iTunes plus you aren’t getting extra “content” but you are getting higher quality and the ability to play on any AAC capable device, but I guess if you really wanted that you/me/we should of bought the CD. I mean Apple and the Labels have a right to charge for the new files and unlike you I do assume that the labels get a cut, but I could be wrong.

You make very valid points about the bandwith that I did not consider.

I never thought I was a store junky, but I went back and looked at it and I’ll bear my heart hear. I’ve spent $618 dollars in the iTunes store since it opened in April 2003. That includes upgrades, iTunes Plus Tracks, Some TV SHows, Music Videos, a Rental here and there for fun. Now only $450 of that was my own hard earned money. The remainder was Gifts of iTunes store cards. 

Since October I’ve done my best to purchase only iTunes plus or Amazon MP3 songs, though I have broken down a few times for easiness. My purchase money do not include about 294 total Pepsi promotion tracks (I don’t want to think about the money Pepsi got off of me for all that! (read probably about $400 total ouch. That’s a new iPod from my soda habit!), but those are appearing as upgradable. At this point my upgrade is 20% of the total cost of what I have spent on iTunes total (including my purchase of plus tracks). Unfortunately the upgrade is currently only 50% of my potential upgrades… It will be interesting to see my total upgrade price to ratio of money spent initially…

But I certainly am waiting out the upgrade. I chose my bed, I’ll sleep it in it. Of course I’ve been drinking the Kool-aid a long time. I have not devices that would require me to have unprotected music, but I tell you Apple does have me washed, It’s been “tempting” to pull the trigger.

I kind of see it from multiple different sides. Wish I would of had more stamina to stay away from the DRM from the begining but I didn’t. After all buying digital music has no physical evidence from a music hating wife, except the credit card statements that the wife normally doesn’t look at :D

Cheers and Happy iPodding.

Posted by studogvetmed in Loveland, CO on January 12, 2009 at 12:35 PM (CST)


by Stu: “Apple or the Labels are under no obligation to provide us with the new products at all. And really I suppose it shouldn’t be looked at as an “upgrade” as a “discount” on purchasing the “new” product.”

We’ve had full sound spectrum music available to us in a digital format since *1982*, and almost all of it either literally or functionally without DRM. Further, we had online distribution of lossless, full spectrum audio years before the iTunes Music Store was more than a pipedream of Apple’s (if that). Yet, somehow, Apple and the labels somehow convinced people to pay full price for DRM shackled, low bitrate, sound spectrum compromised music when they began to deliver digital music online. The justification was a combination of bandwidth, their conception of the absolute lowest common denominator consumers, and, key, the idea that we weren’t purchasing a file, we were purchasing intellectual property.

Intellectual Property, whatever specific grumblings you or I may have with the concept, has a key element: it’s an abstract. We pay royalties, purchase prices, usage fees, etc. to use the idea or the methodology that has been deemed property under the law. We never own this IP, we just get to use it for a fee. This is how the labels and Apple find it justifiable to charge more or less the same price for a lossy approximation of the audio found on the CD or LP with nothing tangible exchanging hands. This is how the labels have found it justifiable to sue thousands of people for doing nothing more than duplication of some digital data when nothing exchanges hands. They demand that we recognise that it’s the abstract of the music we lease regardless of the format of distribution.

All of a sudden we’re supposed to accept that we didn’t actually purchase any intellectual property, that we literally did just buy a 3 MB file for $0.99 that “just happened” to have some music on it? When you purchase an audiobook from audible, you get free downloads of that book for life. Generally, when you purchase software digitally, you can redownload it as many times as necessary for life, and upgrades are usually included free for some period of time, if not for life. If I buy a game from Stardock, I can download all 2GB of it as many times as I want, on as many computers as I want (within reason ;)). These companies and businesses understand that I’ve purchased their intellectual property, not a one time set of 1s and 0s streamed over the internet. So what’s so different about music?

From where I’m sitting, they are not new products, they’re not even full upgrades, they’re a partial upgrade on what is, clearly now, an artificially created format upgrade pathway designed to milk money from customers who didn’t see the train coming right at them. However, either we purchased the IP of the music, in which case, considering the near total lack of cost to them to provide the upgrade to the consumer, they are, if not legally, certainly morally obligated to do so for a far more reasonable fee than a 30% cut of the current purchase price, or they need to concede that even for those DRM shackled tracks, that we retain the same right of first sale as a physical CD or book purchaser and can sell them to anyone we feel like and, since they shackled with DRM in the first place, they are obligated to provide us the mechanisms to do so.

The consumer is *owed* more than this garbage, and any attempt by you or anyone else to view it differently is a capitualation to corporate tyranny.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on January 13, 2009 at 2:43 PM (CST)

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