EMI Music launches DRM-free digital downloads

London, 2 April 2007 - EMI Music today announced that it is launching new premium downloads for retail on a global basis, making all of its digital repertoire available at a much higher sound quality than existing downloads and free of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions.

Eric Nicoli, CEO of EMI Group, said, "By providing DRM-free downloads, we aim to address the lack of interoperability which is frustrating for many music fans. We believe that offering consumers the opportunity to buy higher quality tracks and listen to them on the device or platform of their choice will boost sales of digital music."

In May, Apple's iTunes Store will be the first online retailer to offer EMI's catalogue in two formats: at standard audio quality with DRM, or, for a premium price, improved audio quality without DRM restrictions. Specific details are as follows:

  • Standard tracks: 128kb/s AAC, DRM protection, locked into Apple players, $0.99/€0.99/£0.79
  • Premium tracks: 256kb/s AAC, no DRM protection, interoperable with non-Apple players, $1.29/€1.29/£0.99
  • Previously bought EMI tracks can be 'upgraded' to higher quality and DRM-free for $0.30/£0.15
  • Albums: offered with the above premium features at the same price prior to the announcement.
  • Music videos: also offered DRM-free.
News source: EMI Music Press Release

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I would be quite interested in using this if only they weren't restricting you to using AAC format, i have an IRiver player and it will only play MP3, OGG, WMA.

Does everyone here seem to miss the fact the DRM-free albums will cost exactly the same as DRM'ed albums. It's only the indvidual tracks that are more expensive, and if the EU gets it way, the UK will get cheeper downloads to fall in line with European pricing (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6520677.stm)

This is a great move, and EMI should be praised for giving consumers choice, im sure other labels will have to follow suit.

"I say well done to EMI, and i would gladly pay an extra 30 cents per song, what all you cheap ******* complaining about."

So another words, you are saying that you will gladly download the music for free, after someone else has paid for it? :P

This is awesome, I hope all record labels will follow. The only downside I see with ACC atm is that it isn't supported as widely as mp3. For example my car stereo nor tv DVD player can't play ACC :P So I hope it will be possible in future products.

256k is way more than you need, if you can really tell the difference between these and an old fashioned CD then you are LYING, it is virtually impossible to tell the difference with the human ear.

As for removing DRM how can you all be bitching, are you not all the ones that bithed about DRM in the first place, now they remove it and you bitch some more, you are just demonstrating the point that you can't make everyone happy, they'll always find something to complain about.

I say well done to EMI, and i would gladly pay an extra 30 cents per song, what all you cheap ******* complaining about.

it's not about being cheap, it's just about claiming what should rightfully be ours. in all honesty, ripping it at twice as much bitrate without DRM requires at least the same amount of effort as 128 kbps. as per macrumors.com it was apple that jacked up the price for DRM free, not EMI, which is kind of being greedy on apple's side, but at the end of the day, what the hell.. i'm canadian, free music sharing is still legal here

I just see as attempt to prove one there point "people will still pirate with or without DRM" if DRM free mp3 doesn't effect we going to see a lot rub on your face they were right..

It should be 256kbps + DRM free for $0.99 a track, but this is a start. Good to see, and I hope others follow suit.

Epimetheus:
256kbps AAC is lossless to my ears, anyway. I'm not sure I would consider even 128kbps as "far less quality" than a CD. Certainly less quality, but not far less IMHO. Maybe my audio equipment didn't cost thousands of dollars and that is why.

agreed on both counts

though, i'll selfishly admit that given the positive attitude of most of the people in here, the $1.30 will make apple crapload of money, which only means good things for my stock/options.

Wow.

First people complained about having DRM in their music. They wanted it removed. The companies did not want to remove it. But now finally after all these years, they remove it, but now force you to pay more for it and on top of that for far less quality then a CD. And it appears most of you are HAPPY with this move. I'm sorry but I still would rather buy the CD then pay for this garbage.

I mean. seriously, who on this forum hasn't stripped the security off of these music files? Is it really that difficult and time consuming?
and now all of a sudden 128kb/s isn't good enough? hmmmph. I'd say Jobs and EMI have you exactly where they want you. Thinking their the greatest, most nicest people in the whole gosh durn world while jacking your wallet even more. For a service quite frankly, should have been DRM free to begin with.

Exactly.

What is it that you've done to make digital music a viable commercial operation that is fair to consumers? So far, Apple has done more and done right as far as I can tell. If you want to live in a Black and White world and sit on the sideline for 20 years, have fun. The rest of us are participating in the market, aware that compromise and transitions are necessary.

Either you are working for a contracted company by Apple or EMI to spread information on how great this move is, or you are a consumer who doesn't give a **** about the quality, price, and how this move is actually screwing you in the ass. Look at what this move has done; most of the people in this thread would scream bloody murder if their music had DRM in it, but now they are praising these companies for upping the price on the very same music without DRM, and trying to justify it with a very small increase in quality. It's a corporate marketing strangle-hold now.

I have no more to say I cannot believe most of you are buying into this.

It's still AAC so if the DRM wasn't preventing you form putting the music on other players then the obscure file format still does. Well, you say, you can always burn the music to a CD and rip it into a different format. Yeah and burning only to re-rip is a cumbersome method that affects fidelity upon re-encoding.

It's also awfully nice of Apple and EMI to offer the un-DRM'ed music at $0.30 more per track and justify it by saying it's to compensate for the higher quality encoding. They're truly just compensating for the projected loss they believe un-DRM'ed music will bring.

Lame.

betasp said,
Did you even read the other comments...

Yes, I did. Out of the portable devices that support the AAC format, only four are truly DAPs (digital audio players). The iPod, Zune, Sansa e200R, and Sony Walkman S. That's some freedom.

AAC is an open format, so there's nothing to stop other manufacturers using it. Once DRM is gone altogether I'm sure they will.

clever, very clever, just a money making scheme they really dont care about piracy at all, just in for making a quick buck when they can...

I think it would have better for them to release the tracks in some other format (read MP3) since not many player can play AAC. Also I've always said they should offer Lossless tracks

Except that AAC is a superior format with better quality at the same bitrates. A lot of players will play unprotected AAC. The mp3 format is outdated and needs to die.

[You may want to read the comments (at least skim them) before posting. This was already discussed in #30.]

QuarterSwede said,
The mp3 format is outdated and needs to die.

I think the legions of LAME fans out there would beg to differ. MP3s sound great to me when ripped properly.

It is, however the prices are still way too high. We should be paying around $0.75 per track at 256 kbps/DRM free. Consider this, a CD with 12 tracks goes for around $9-12 at Best Buy and most other retails outlets; in order to get all those same songs DRM free through this service you would be paying $15.60 and you're not getting the CD/art/case. No Thanks.

No, you wouldn't. You would be buying the ALBUM, which is $9.99.

And, fine with the artwork, but you would be making this purchase to specifically avoid the CD/case. Claiming you get the "case" is the stupidest argument I've ever heard.

It is, however the prices are still way too high. We should be paying around $0.75 per track at 256 kbps/DRM free. Consider this, a CD with 12 tracks goes for around $9-12 at Best Buy and most other retails outlets; in order to get all those same songs DRM free through this service you would be paying $15.60 and you're not getting the CD/art/case. No Thanks.


Your pricing is based on new "hot" releases. Based on a quick sample, I would say the average price for a CD at Best Buy and Circuit City is around $14.05. Assuming 11 songs and your are paying about the same. Look for obscure stuff and you can pay as high as $17 for a CD, which means itunes will be a better deal.

Also, many artists that are not "mainstream" are not carried by your large retailers (or AllofMp3 for what it is worth). They are in iTunes, though. I hope those go DRM free soon.

And also, don't forget that you've got the powerful Search facility in the iTunes store and also you can listen to / watch a preview of the item before you buy!

but im confused. if the files are still AAC then how can they be played on any player. i cant really think of one that supports it apart from the ipod. :S

mad_onion said,
but im confused. if the files are still AAC then how can they be played on any player. i cant really think of one that supports it apart from the ipod. :S

PDAs
PlayStation 3
PlayStation Portable
Cellphones
Car stereos (Pioneer, Sony, Alpine, Kenwood, Clarion and Panasonic)

mad_onion said,
but im confused. if the files are still AAC then how can they be played on any player. i cant really think of one that supports it apart from the ipod. :S

Loads of players support unprotected AAC. The iPod is the only player that can play protected AAC.

AAC is actually less royalty encumbered than mp3, so as long as you don't make mistakes in picking your hardware, this format shouldn't really pose a problem. Only codec developers have to face any license fees, however that will of course exclude any sort of customers, and even Internet radio stations, which is a nice thing to have. It's also using proprietary technology, but is not the property of a single company. So AAC has many nice things going for it IMHO, besides the superior quality compared to mp3 of course.

The Zune. Maybe they'll actually get a slight bump over the Samsung Sansas and Creative offerings. It's funny that Apple helps them more than they do for themselves.

And maybe Samsung (only the Rhapsody Sansa does currently), Creative, Toshiba, et al. will finally jump into the 21st Century and support a codec they should have supported 5 years ago.

A list of other devices:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Audi...hat_support_AAC

Wow, I wasn't expecting this so soon.

This is great news and marks an important milestone. Finally - legal music has matched the benefits of pirated MP3s.

In my perfect world, what I'd like is a DRM-free subscription service. That would be fair and something I would seriously consider using.

This is great news!

Buy DRM free to not only support artists but enjoy playing it on your computer, ipod, zune, phone, etc! I'll be interested to see the sales report after a month of this system in place.

Absolutely - the industry getting the message relies on people (i.e. us) using it. I'll most certainly be breaking my vow of never installing iTunes next month, because if enough people pay money for non-DRM'd music, the industry will start listening - but only because there's more money involved, of course
Feel free to call me a troll for this, but I'm not entirely surprised Apple are one of the first to be trying it...

I just hope everyone is sensible with these, don't go sharing them online or they'll have a legitimate reason for DRM, maybe that's their plan, who knows.

Anyway great to see it, hope it lasts and spreads to other labels!

kravex said,
I just hope everyone is sensible with these, don't go sharing them online or they'll have a legitimate reason for DRM, maybe that's their plan, who knows.

Anyway great to see it, hope it lasts and spreads to other labels! :D

I don't think they will see an increase in piracy from this. If anything, it should decrease.

Great! Now if only I could purchase music only availible in another country's iTunes store.
Or at least add an imports section or something.

wow... this came actually faster than I expected...
now we only need all the other guys like Sony BMG to follow...
and the smaller labels... mmh... this is actually good news...

Glassed Silver:mac

COLDPLAY! (oh damn, teh internets.)
Air and Daft Punk, wow! For the first time as a non-iTunes country guy, I'm rather attracted to get tons of giftcards and start gobbling.

OK, I understand paying more for a higher quality file, I get that. But DRM free should be provided on both files regardless for no extra money. You want 128 it's .99 with No DRM, you want 256 it's 1.29 with No DRM, that's the way it should be. This is a step in the right direction but we're deffinitly still not there yet.

You're right, it is a step in the right direction, a BIG step. We should take advantage of this new service so that other labels will be encouraged to follow suit.

If EMI see this helps a lot in reaching new markets, I wouldn't be surprised if they'll adjust the rest of their music too.

This seems like a cautious first step in the right direction.

You have to remember it costs money to strip every EMI file of DRM so it is, at least, warranted that they don't replace the 128kbps files.

QuarterSwede said,
You have to remember it costs money to strip every EMI file of DRM so it is, at least, warranted that they don't replace the 128kbps files.

It doesn't cost more to remove DRM. I have over 1000 files I got from iTunes and ran them through a DRM stripper. It took about a minute. I'm sure they could do the same thing.

If everyone else will do this, CDs will die a slow death. I have not problem paying a little more for 256AAC with no DRM.

Don't get my wrong, this is a massive leap in the right direction, but £0.99 per song? That's much too steep. New albums cost £8 on CD these days. If you have the CD, you can rip it into whatever format you want. Even if they offer full albums for £7.99, I'd rather have the CD for the same price.

It'll be a handy way to buy the odd single track, but at that price it's hardly an alternative to buying CDs.

My thought are that CDs get scratched and damaged whereas DRM free music can be backed up and kept virtually forever.

So rip your CDs to your computer as soon as you buy them, then put them away.

With my X-Fi sound card and software, I can rip all my CDs into 700-1000 Kbps VBR DRM-free tracks and never have to chance damaging my CDs thereafter. I can also (at least for now) legally copy my CDs for use in my car CD player before putting them away. Again, no damage to my original CDs.

In my opinion, buying CDs is still the way to go if you want the entire CD; digital downloads are for when you only want single tracks.

Octol said,
So rip your CDs to your computer as soon as you buy them, then put them away.

With my X-Fi sound card and software, I can rip all my CDs into 700-1000 Kbps VBR DRM-free tracks and never have to chance damaging my CDs thereafter. I can also (at least for now) legally copy my CDs for use in my car CD player before putting them away. Again, no damage to my original CDs.

In my opinion, buying CDs is still the way to go if you want the entire CD; digital downloads are for when you only want single tracks.

+1. Exactly what I do.

Couldn't agree more. I largely prefer having a nice CD that will last me for the next 20 years to come with a nice jacket and booklet rather than an awful CD-R. That's also why I never saw the point of so many people crying over MP3 protections (although yes, DRM-free purchases is a good thing).

Patchou said,
Couldn't agree more. I largely prefer having a nice CD that will last me for the next 20 years to come with a nice jacket and booklet rather than an awful CD-R. That's also why I never saw the point of so many people crying over MP3 protections (although yes, DRM-free purchases is a good thing).

Absolutely, CDs FTW. Buy it, rip it and store it. The music industry and Apple are making digital downloads a priority over CDs (because they are cheaper to put out and distribute), but if they come at the same prices as CDs and even more expensive, buying a CD over a digital download should be a no-brainer.

You're forgetting the doubled file sizes and far better quality though. That's part of the very same deal. But yes, hopefully they'll at least take off the DRM from the "standard" tracks in the future though, if not increasing the quality.

Apple Press Release

Apple Unveils Higher Quality DRM-Free Music on the iTunes Store
DRM-Free Songs from EMI Available on iTunes for $1.29 in May
CUPERTINO, California—April 2, 2007

Apple® today announced that EMI Music’s entire digital catalog of music will be available for purchase DRM-free (without digital rights management) from the iTunes® Store (www.itunes.com) worldwide in May. DRM-free tracks from EMI will be offered at higher quality 256 kbps AAC encoding, resulting in audio quality indistinguishable from the original recording, for just $1.29 per song. In addition, iTunes customers will be able to easily upgrade their entire library of all previously purchased EMI content to the higher quality DRM-free versions for just 30 cents a song. iTunes will continue to offer its entire catalog, currently over five million songs, in the same versions as today—128 kbps AAC encoding with DRM—at the same price of 99 cents per song, alongside DRM-free higher quality versions when available.

“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.”

“EMI and iTunes are once again teaming up to move the digital music industry forward by giving music fans higher quality audio that is virtually indistinguishable from the original recordings, with no usage restrictions on the music they love from their favorite artists,” said Eric Nicoli, CEO of EMI Group.

With DRM-free music from the EMI catalog, iTunes customers will have the ability to download tracks from their favorite EMI artists without any usage restrictions that limit the types of devices or number of computers that purchased songs can be played on. DRM-free songs purchased from the iTunes Store will be encoded in AAC at 256 kbps, twice the current bit rate of 128 kbps, and will play on all iPods, Mac® or Windows computers, Apple TVs and soon iPhones, as well as many other digital music players.

iTunes will also offer customers a simple, one-click option to easily upgrade their entire library of all previously purchased EMI content to the higher quality DRM-free format for 30 cents a song. All EMI music videos will also be available in DRM-free format with no change in price.

The iTunes Store features the world’s largest catalog with over five million songs, 350 television shows and over 400 movies. The iTunes Store has sold over two billion songs, 50 million TV shows and over 1.3 million movies, making it the world’s most popular online music, TV and movie store.

With Apple’s legendary ease of use, pioneering features such as integrated podcasting support, iMix playlist sharing, seamless integration with iPod® and the ability to turn previously purchased songs into completed albums at a reduced price, the iTunes Store is the best way for PC and Mac users to legally discover, purchase and download music and video online.

Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh. Today, Apple continues to lead the industry in innovation with its award-winning computers, OS X operating system and iLife and professional applications. Apple is also spearheading the digital media revolution with its iPod portable music and video players and iTunes online store, and will enter the mobile phone market this year with its revolutionary iPhone.

http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2007/04/02itunes.html

  • Already purchased tracks can be upgraded for 30 cents each.
  • Full albums will only be available DRM-free with no price increase!
  • Music videos will also be DRM-free

I'm more than happy to pay 20p more for a track without DRM. The DRM-free price is about the same as on bleep.com anyway.

Here's hoping the Beatles' catalogue is included, but even if not EMI have a lot of artists I look forward to enjoying. Any way you look at it, a red-letter day for consumers! ...And it might just save EMI from disaster

It's an excuse to charge more, but it sure as hell doesn't seem to have come easily.

Anyway, I'm happy there's at least one big music company that has come to their senses.

I'm surprised that they are doing it this way. I suspect that a big incentive for them is pushing people towards paying more for tracks.

The thing is though, I flat-out refused to purchase music on the iTunes Store because of it locking me into the iPod. Now that, at least with EMI content, it doesn't ... I will be purchasing digital music.

And I think they're targetting people like me. It's mutually beneficial for the consumer, EMI and Apple as the first retailer to offer it.

OceanMotion said,
Cool, hope everyone else has sense too. I still think they should scrap the 128kb/s DRM tracks all together though.

Some people don't care about the DRM, and would most likely rather pay 30 cents less because of that fact.

I'm so very pleased by this announcement. I hope this is a turning point within the industry as a whole.