Following last night’s release of iTunes 7.2 with support for DRM-free music downloads, the iTunes Store is now in the process of adding those tracks, dubbed “iTunes Plus” songs. A banner from the iTunes Store’s main page directs users to a list of albums available in the 256Kbps AAC format, including catalog releases by Paul McCartney, Coldplay, Frank Sinatra, the Rolling Stones, Gorillaz and Norah Jones. The list appears to be actively under construction at press time.
Album prices for iTunes Plus start at $9.99, but can go higher, as Coldplay’s X & Y lists for $11.99, and Gorillaz’ Demon Days lists for $12.99. Individual songs can be purchased for $1.29, with a new + icon indicating that the songs are iTunes Plus rather than prior 99-cent iTunes downloads. Upon first selecting the iTunes Plus banner, iTunes presents you with the option to always display the iTunes Plus version of an album or music video by default, or rather to show the lower-quality, DRM-laden version instead.
Some of the spotlighted albums on iTunes appear not yet to have been completely transitioned from iTunes to iTunes Plus format. For instance, the Beastie Boys’ Check Your Head shows an iTunes Plus album purchase option, but does not include iTunes Plus song downloads, directing you instead to the older 99-cent tracks. It’s unclear at the moment whether this will be remedied with subsequent iTunes Store catalog updates, or whether some artists will only allow their music to be purchased without DRM when in album form.
Updated: Additional iTunes Plus tracks are in the process of being added to the iTunes Store this morning, fixing the “albums but no songs” issue above. Also, iLounge editors and readers are being presented with an Upgrade My Library option to enhance their existing collections of qualifying purchased iTunes Store music at a cost of 30 cents per track (US). Currently limited by participating labels, only those purchased tracks with iTunes Plus versions can be upgraded to the new and improved format.
Below, you can see comparison shots of iTunes Plus and iTunes track downloads. The only differences shown between the two tracks are as follows:
Kind: is now listed as Purchased AAC audio file rather than Protected AAC audio file. We have deleted from both photos the purchaser information, however, all tracks are tagged with the name and e-mail address of the person who downloaded them.
Size: has almost doubled from 3.5MB to 6.8MB.
Bit Rate: has doubled from 128Kbps to 256Kbps.
FairPlay Version information has disappeared from the DRM-less iTunes Plus track.
Where: shows the new filename, which is an M4A AAC file rather than an M4P AAC file.