As anticipated, EMI Music today announced that it plans to make all of its digital music offerings free of anti-piracy restrictions and that iTunes would be the first online store to sell the DRM-free music. EMI also said its downloads will be available in a higher quality format than previously offered.
The new DRM-free premium EMI music will be sold on Apple’s iTunes Store in higher quality 256 kbps AAC format (twice the current bit rate) for a higher price—individual tracks will sell for $1.29. Apple said iTunes will continue to offer 99-cent standard sound quality tracks with DRM still applied. Full albums will only be offered in the premium version. In addition, iTunes customers will be able to “upgrade” their previously purchased EMI tracks to the higher quality DRM-free format for 30 cents a song.
The DRM-free EMI music will be available on iTunes worldwide in May. During a Q&A at EMI’s press conference, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said he expects other major record labels to follow EMI’s lead and sees the iTunes Store offering half of its 5 million song catalog in DRM-free format by the end of the year. Jobs said Apple will “reach out to all the major and independent labels to give them the same opportunity” as EMI.