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Steve Jobs Announces (some) DRM-free iTunes 838

Fjan11 writes "Steve Jobs just announced that starting next month on you can buy higher quality 256Kbps AAC encoded DRM-free versions of iTunes songs for $1.29. Upgrades to songs you've already bought will be available at the $0.30 price difference. Currently EMI is the only publisher participating, accounting for about 20% of the songs available." There's also reports from Reuters and ABC News. The deal excludes the Beatles. You can also read the official press release from Apple if you still think this a late joke; this story confirms earlier speculation.
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Steve Jobs Announces (some) DRM-free iTunes

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  • Good job everyone! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AchiIIe ( 974900 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @09:49AM (#18572847)
    If you were one of the thousands of bloggers/netcitizens demanding DRM free music, give yourself a hand. This is a win for us.
    • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:03AM (#18573033)
      It's not a win unless you reward them with your custom. Better buy now.
      • by Admiral Ag ( 829695 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:14AM (#18573211)
        The real winner here is Apple, and the potential big loser is Microsoft. This may well kill Windows Media as a digital audio format.

        Think about it... If all the labels offer their music DRM free by the end of the year, then what incentive is there for any online music store, except for the Zune store, to offer music in Windows Media format, given that the iPod is incompatible with WMA and represents about 80% of the target market.

        There simply isn't any reason for an online music store that isn't owned by Microsoft to offer downloads that are incompatible with around about 80% of the devices that people own.

        More to the point. Microsoft is only offering the Zune as a means of pushing its own audio format. Yet even Zune customers will be now able to play DRM free tracks from the iTMS. Microsoft has just caught up to the idea that you have to have a closed system to succeed (which was never the case, as Jobs' said in his letter a couple of months back), and now they will have to go home and think again.

        Steve Jobs has just succeeded in the first step of completely destroying Microsoft's music strategy, and no-one seems to have noticed. He must be chuckling to himself.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by soft_guy ( 534437 )

          Steve Jobs has just succeeded in the first step of completely destroying Microsoft's music strategy
          I'd hardly call this a "first step" - it is more like "yet another step". Apple has done a pretty good job of shutting down Microsoft's music/media initiatives for years (i.e. Plays4Shit).
      • by SenseiLeNoir ( 699164 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:48AM (#18573753)
        Exactly, and I will be buying..

        I REALLY don't mind paying that for 256kbps non DRM AAC.

        To be honest, I expected that they were going to spoil it by charging $2, but $1.30 is very reasonable.

        Time for us to encourage it, by actually buying these songs.
        • by squidfood ( 149212 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @11:12AM (#18574113)
          I REALLY don't mind paying that for 256kbps non DRM AAC.

          I'm surprised I haven't seen this on the thread, but will we all need iPods with bigger drives now? Mine's maxed at the lower sample rate. Is that the other win for Jobs?

      • by The_Wilschon ( 782534 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @11:14AM (#18574151) Homepage
        I would, if only it were possible to buy from them without installing bloody iTunes on my computer! If someone knows of a way to do that which I just haven't found yet, please let me know.
    • Wait a Minute (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mateo_LeFou ( 859634 )
      DRM is *very expensive to produce. There's the R&D costs, programming, buying up congresspeople. How is the DRM going to make a profit if their product's marginal utility (apparently) is -$.30?
      • Re:Wait a Minute (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Itchy Rich ( 818896 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:13AM (#18573195)

        How is the DRM going to make a profit if their product's marginal utility (apparently) is -$.30?

        Without DRM there'd be far less excuse to charge extra for the DRM-free version. The $1.30 version will subsidise the $1 DRM-encumbered version.

        It's a bit like the way the supermarkets virtually wiped out tastier (but odd-looking) varieties of fruit and veg for cosmetic reasons. They're then selling them back to us as luxury items now we're used to eating the pretty (but tasteless) varieties.

        • Re:Wait a Minute (Score:4, Insightful)

          by jmp_nyc ( 895404 ) * on Monday April 02, 2007 @11:00AM (#18573947)
          Without DRM there'd be far less excuse to charge extra for the DRM-free version. The $1.30 version will subsidise the $1 DRM-encumbered version.

          Don't ignore the other tidbit in the announcement about the re-release of the music. It's all going to be released 256kbps, rather than the current iTunes Store standard of 128kbps. So if you buy DRM-free music from iTunes, you're actually getting a higher quality rip than they previously sold. There's a very small number of people who can hear the difference, although a larger number of people think it matters. Either way, Apple has actually improved the quality of the deliverable, not just removed DRM.

          At twice the bitrate, the songs use twice the bandwidth when downloaded, so Apple even has slightly higher real costs on the new downloads, although I doubt that the incremental increase in cost is as high as 30 cents per song...
    • by Luke Psywalker ( 869266 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:04AM (#18573051)
      ...please refrain from further encouraging slashdotters to give themselves 'a hand'
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2007 @09:49AM (#18572849)
    .. everyone who wanted DRM-free music put your money where your mouth is!
  • EMI Press (Score:3, Informative)

    by ack154 ( 591432 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:00AM (#18572991)
    There's also an EMI Press Release [].
  • by vision33r ( 829872 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:01AM (#18572999)
    Just like McDonalds you can Super size for $0.30 more that gives you more than you actually need to consume.
  • by scifience ( 674659 ) <> on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:05AM (#18573063) Homepage
    I didn't see it mentioned in a brief look at the articles above, but albums will automatically be 256kbps and DRM free at the normal price. This should help encourage album sales. Ideally, they would offer the lower quality songs without DRM as well, but this is undoubtedly prevented by their current contracts with the other labels. Only by offering a new "product" were they able to remove the DRM. This is the same reason that they are unable to remove the DRM from songs released by indie labels that requested no DRM.
  • by thomis ( 136073 ) <> on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:07AM (#18573105) Homepage Journal
    I hereby rescind my Apple-phobia. Jobs has achieved a BIG GOOD THING.
    Good on ya, Steve! /you'll still have to pry my iRiver out of my twitching, techno-spazzed fingers.
  • by zeoslap ( 190553 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:07AM (#18573111) Homepage
    So what exactly is their justification for leaving DRM on the $0.99 tracks? It can't be that they are afraid people will release them into the wild if the higher quality tracks are now DRM free, so why not remove it?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by clifyt ( 11768 )
      I know if the prices on something that I got use to were raised 30%, I'd be pissed.

      Even as a sometimes pro-musician (the RIAA kind that everyone here hates), I really don't care much about the quality of the recordings...if I want something great, I'll just see the artist live. Recordings are always a compromised solution anyways (anyone talking about 'lossless' music really haven't heard it in the studio...tons of loss by the time it gets to you). And I own an iPod, so technically, the 30% increase does
  • It's a Start! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Luscious868 ( 679143 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:09AM (#18573133)

    This is excellent news! I love that they are offering the option to upgrade any previously purchased songs to the 256 kbps DRM free version for 30 cents a track. I plan on upgrading all of my tracks as soon as they are available. While I think that $1.29 is a little bit high for a track without DRM (I'd like to see them for the same price as the version with DRM), it's reasonable enough for me. You get twice the quality and no DRM for 30 cents more a track.

    It also appears as if deals with other studios are imminent. From the press release [] []:

    "We are going to give iTunes customers a choice--the current versions of our songs for the same 99 cent price, or new DRM-free versions of the same songs with even higher audio quality and the security of interoperability for just 30 cents more," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "We think our customers are going to love this, and we expect to offer more than half of the songs on iTunes in DRM-free versions by the end of this year."
    • Re:It's a Start! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:29AM (#18573441) Homepage
      You don't get twice the quality, you get twice the bits. Is CD quality 10 times the quality? Most of the quality in music has to do with the people performing the music, not how many bits are used to encode it. The difference to my ears are minimal for these two bitrates, especially when listening on an iPod. $.99 is way too much for a digital file. CDs cost more because of the distribution chain and physical materials, but downloaded music should cost nowhere near that amount. I use eMusic, which ends up being around $0.30 a track. They don't have everything though, so for what they don't have, I get the CD. I'd gladly pay the extra $1-$2 for the CD over what iTunes charges.
  • by phayes ( 202222 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:10AM (#18573143) Homepage
    My current music collection is high quality MP3s (192-256Kbit) I've ripped myself which I listen to on Slimboxes connected to quality speakers.
    I never bought any music from iTunes because:
    - Apple's DRM protected files were too low quality for me to bother with (I would have to rip to CD then reencode to MP3 which usually meant hearable artifacts.)
    - DRM meant that the music I bought would never be 100% protected from "upgrades" forced on me by the RIAA (much as Apple already reduced the number of authorized hosts).
    - I've already bought the same album in 3 formats: Vinyl, Tape, & CD. I refuse to pay a fourth time unless I am sure that it would be the last time.

    I'm not overenthused about the premium over itunes normal pricing, but there appears to be enough goodness in this announce to finally get me onboard.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by node 3 ( 115640 )

      DRM meant that the music I bought would never be 100% protected from "upgrades" forced on me by the RIAA (much as Apple already reduced the number of authorized hosts).
      Actually, they *increased* the number.
  • cojones (Score:5, Interesting)

    by suzerain ( 245705 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:12AM (#18573179) Homepage
    Man, say what you want about Steve Jobs. He's got a famous temper, he doesn't compromise, he likes closed systems, etc. and so on. But one thing he definitely has is balls, and sometimes we can benefit from it.

    So, he apparently finally has convinced one label to drop the DRM, and yes, he's charging more for the content, but he goes and ups the bitrate, just so the content from the non-participating labels looks like shit in comparison. That takes some cojones, and I gotta say, I admire him for that. Could it possibly be that DRM will become one of those horrible memories from the past that we can all suppress? Time will tell, but at least today, I say this is relatively good news.

    And, you know..."fuck the RIAA" goes without saying.
    • by WiseWeasel ( 92224 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @11:18AM (#18574211)
      Fuck the RIAA, except for EMI. We do have to hand it to them for taking the courageous step, breaking rank from the other big labels, and taking a chance on selling standard format music. Now if they can just distance themselves from the suing of little old grandmothers, I might even be motivated to exclude them from my RIAA boycott, provided they have music I'm interested in...
  • WaterMarking (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tecker ( 793737 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:21AM (#18573291) Homepage
    Another advantage of the higher bitrates is the ability to slip in watermarking. Thanks to perfect digital replication the instant this appeared on P2P they could trace the file back to the person that purchased the media.

    Think about it. Apple has not released the details of the tracks other then "256kb aac" w/o DRM. They don't say that it will be delayed downloading (rather then the buy, download, listen now) could be "Thanks for purchasing. Your music will arrive shortly in you library and purchased media areas." Then about 5 minutes later the track downloads. And seeing how apple doesn't allow for a redownloading (i think) they simply add the watermarking into the database and delete the track.

    EMI find a DRM free version of the music on the internet (Coldplay-Clocks.m4a) and downloads it from people. They compare the watermark, it comes back to you, you get sued like no other on the planet as an example.

    (the old tired method of this but):
    1) Announce DRM Free media
    2) Release DRM free media w/ Watermarking
    3) Download version from internet
    4) Link watermarking to individual
    6) ??? (Repeat?)
    7) Profit somehow.

    Its a possibility. Don't just celebrate yet. I've got a feeling this wont be with out some strings
  • by SengirV ( 203400 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:23AM (#18573331)
    After Jobs made his "get rid of DRM" speech a month or two ago, they were coming out of the woodwork blasting him for being a hypocrite. Maybe these know-nothings will now realize that he couldn't make these changes on his own, he needed the labels themselves to come along.

    NOW that one of them is promoting anti-DRM versions, expect the indy stuff to follow suit. These same anti-Jobs people will lament the fact Jobs didn't do this with indy bands 1st. It's called negotiations people. Getting a major label to do this is 10 times better than having ONLY the indy bands DRM free. This is a major change in thinking for the big labels. And that made it well worth the wait.

    Maybe if the anti-Jobs people would focus more on Microsoft and their disabling of the Zune wifi for a change, even more progress can be made in the DRM free world. But I'm guessing that the anti-Job reaction to his speech wasn't atually about his speech, it was more about being Microsoft lap dogs.
    • ... for finally doing the right thing.

      I know it is hard for those of you into person or brand name worshiping to understand, but it is quite possible to compliment people or companies for the good things they do, and at the same time criticize them for the bad things they do. Just because you define your world into personal (or brand) loyalties, it does not mean the rest of us are similar restricted.
  • April's Fool (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lars T. ( 470328 ) <Lars.Traeger@goog l e m a> on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:27AM (#18573393) Journal
    The press conference has only streaming WindowsMedia and Real, no Quicktime?
  • Three thoughts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LihTox ( 754597 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:42AM (#18573665)
    Three things occur to me here.

    1. Critics have maintained that Apple should allow independent artists to offer their music iTMS without DRM, but the standard response is that this would be technically infeasible. Now that this is not the case, I hope to see Apple offer DRM-free music from independent producers soon.

    2. The Big Studios have been pushing to get Apple to charge a higher rate per song for years now. This outcome has Apple saying, "Hey, get rid of DRM and we'll do it." I wonder how tempting that will be to the other studios.

    3. Anti-DRM advocates need EMI to be very successful; a rise in sales will allow the initiative to grow, while a drop in sales will herald calls of piracy. This is one case where giving money to a large company may actually do some good. (I know many purists would scoff, but big corporations are like big, very cunning animals: they are dangerous, but perhaps can be trained.)
  • Players (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:49AM (#18573765) Homepage
    What players, besides iPod, support the non-DRM AAC format?
    • Re:Players (Score:4, Informative)

      by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:58AM (#18573899)

      What players, besides iPod, support the non-DRM AAC format?

      From Wikipedia:

      • Microsoft Zune
      • SanDisk Sansa e200R
      • Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP)
      • Sony Walkman (Walkman)
      • Sony Ericsson phones such as the P990, K800, and the Walkman-branded W series music phones such as the W950 and the W810 support MP4 files with audio encoded using AAC-LC, HE-AAC v1 and HE-AAC v2.
      • Palm OS PDAs
      • Nokia Nseries multimedia phones
      • Sony PlayStation 3
      • Windows PCs

      I imagine a few more hardware vendors will now be looking to try to add support, however.

  • by rekoil ( 168689 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @11:13AM (#18574145)
    I'm really curious what the future holds for other labels now that we've had a major break in the DRM ranks. Several independent labels, most notably Nettwerk, have gone on record as being willing to sell their tracks DRM-free (and AFAIK they do on, but have been unable to get Apple to do so, citing Apple's desire for "user consistency" or some other bullsh* I wonder if we'll see DRM-free tracks from those labels as well sooner than later given this mornings news.
  • Better than CD? (Score:4, Informative)

    by jhfry ( 829244 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @11:28AM (#18574353)
    From what I understand of AAC audio, an essentially lossless CD rip of most CD's can be done in far less than the 320kbps used by mp3.

    In fact, some have said that 128kbps is almost as good as 320kbps.

    Couple that, with the fact that that you can sample AAC up to 96khz rather than just 48khz, you can encode up to 48 separate channels, and that EMI encodes their tracks from the digital masters rather than a lossy CD.

    I suspect that the quality of these tracks may actually rival that of CD's... perhaps be superior in some regards.

    I especially like the multi-track encoding idea. Labels could release the music so that the lead vocal, background vocals, and music were all on separate tracks... instant karaoke and instant remix ability. I don't suspect we can expect anything like this very soon, but the AAC format allows for it.

    Can anyone confirm, is 256kbps enough for an AAC file to be indistinguishable from a CD in a true double blind listening test?
  • Lame (Score:4, Funny)

    by fname ( 199759 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @12:46PM (#18575491) Journal
    No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.
  • by bananaendian ( 928499 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @01:19PM (#18576047) Homepage Journal
    Michael Gartenberg wrote []:

    "Had another funny call with a media outlet this morning. When I called them back on the Apple/EMI news, first question was. "Do you think this is a bad thing for Apple and EMI." When I said "no, it's a good thing", they said "thanks for calling but we only want to talk to someone who thinks this is a bad thing."
  • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Monday April 02, 2007 @01:27PM (#18576149) Homepage
    In case you're reading this, Apple, I'm ready to be a customer. And a moderately large one at that (I have about $5,000 worth of CDs). Unfortunately I only have Linux machines - is there a good path for me to buy from you?

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