Q: My boss uses his wife’s iTunes account to purchase music. He recently purchased some songs from iTunes and wants to move them as MP3 files to go onto his Blackberry. Upon trying to drop and drag into the Blackberry folder, he gets a notification for Optimum conversion, Advanced conversion, and one other one. Each time he tries to do this, he gets a notification that there’s nothing in the new folder for his Blackbery. I see that the purchased songs come into the folder as M4A format. How can he get these purchased songs to be MP3 files so he can put them on any MP3 player?
A: Unfortunately, most tracks purchased from the iTunes Store are still protected by digital rights management (DRM) restrictions, which prevent you from playing them on a non-Apple device or converting them directly to another format such as MP3.
The exception to this are the newer “iTunes Plus” tracks available from certain artists on the iTunes Store. These are sold in a much higher bit-rate (256kbps versus 128kbps), and are free of any DRM restrictions. You can therefore convert these to MP3, or simply transfer the M4A files directly to the Blackberry (which should support that format directly as well).
Normally, purchased DRM-protected tracks will have an M4P extension, although this is not necessarily always the case, since the files can be renamed. You can tell for certain if a track is DRM-protected by viewing its properties in iTunes. To do this, select the track in question and choose File, Get Info from within iTunes. On the “Summary” tab of a music track’s properties, the “Kind” will indicate what type of audio file you are working with:
Normally, this will be one of the following four types for a music track:
- Protected AAC Audio File: AAC audio format, purchased from the iTunes Store, DRM-protected
- Purchased AAC Audio File: AAC audio format, purchased from the iTunes Store, unprotected
- AAC Audio File: AAC audio format from another source (ie, imported from an audio CD), unprotected
- MPEG Audio File: MP3 audio format, unprotected.
With the exception of Protected AAC Audio File content, any of the other types can be synchronized to a newer-model Blackberry device (such as the 8800, Pearl, or Curve) without any further conversion required. The newer Blackberry devices provide full support for the AAC audio format.
If you are in fact dealing with Protected AAC files, the only way to convert them for playback on a non-Apple device is to burn them to an audio CD, and then re-import the audio CD into a format such as MP3, as you would any commercial audio CD, using either iTunes or any other third-party CD “ripping” software.