EMI, Apple to start offering DRM-free music?

British record label EMI plans to hold a media event on Monday with Apple CEO Steve Jobs as a “special guest.” The label hasn’t revealed what the event will be about, but the Wall Street Journal reports that it has heard (sub. required) from people “familiar with the matter” that EMI will announce plans to sell a significant portion of its music catalog on Apple’s iTunes Store with no digital rights management (DRM) protection.

The move wouldn’t come out of the blue. Apple CEO Steve Jobs posted an open letter calling for the end of DRM on Apple’s website in February, and the New York Times reported shortly afterward that EMI had been in talks with Apple and other online music vendors to sell a large part of its music without DRM protection (although we later heard other rumors that said EMI had broken off those talks and planned to stick with DRM.) According to the Wall Street Journal, EMI did indeed shelve plans to sell DRM-free music—but only temporarily so, because iTunes competitors refused to offer the label enough cash to offset its potential losses from the move. However, after “months of private discussions,” the Wall Street Journal says EMI does indeed plan to sell DRM-free music.

This news may be music to the ears of pretty much anyone who doesn’t work in the record industry—and even some who do—but the BBC has a conflicting report that says EMI’s announcement on Monday won’t have to do with DRM at all. Instead, the British news corporation speculates that EMI may simply announce plans to make music from the Beatles available on the iTunes Store. Either that, or the announcement will have something to do with the iPhone, the BBC says.

Comments closed
    • ljaszcza
    • 14 years ago

    Are all you guys kidding?
    EMI just levied a 30% surcharge for giving you music which is not infected by a virus which can make it unusable.
    Not too many years ago you purchased vinyl, tape, non DRM CD. People made cassette compilations of vinyl, you ripped your CD, no surcharge (other than grossly inflated purchase prices).
    Now, they roll out “DRM free” music with a 30% surcharge and everyone is happy.
    You know, when the mafia tells a store owner that he needs to pay a premium to them to ensure bad things don’t happen, that is extortion.
    When EMI tells you you pay a premium otherwise you get virus infected music … to me that is also more extortion.
    Boy, they are just loath to give up that $17 per album price point.
    Anyhow, just my rant

    • Ricardo Dawkins
    • 14 years ago

    it was just a pre-emptive counter move against the Zune marketplace 192kbps WMA tracks. Am I right ?
    Well, lets see what happens after this.

    • Thresher
    • 14 years ago

    This is definitely a step in the right direction.

    Now, if they would just start releasing back catalog music for less money per track, I’d be all over it. I don’t mind paying a bit more for newer music, it makes sense. But on the other hand, I’d like to pay less for some of the more obscure stuff that I’d like to have.

    • Hattig
    • 14 years ago

    Single Tracks:

    256kbps AAC, $1.29 /

      • Gandhi
      • 14 years ago

      Engadget is reporting that tracks can be upgraded to DRM-free.

        • Hattig
        • 14 years ago

        Yes, for 30¢ / 20p – not a bad price IMO given the extra quality you get.

      • apkellogg
      • 14 years ago

      I have tried reading a couple different articles, but none mention how you upgrade your music.

      Is there going to be a little upgrade button next to all songs that qualify or what? Does anybody have any info about this?

        • Slacker
        • 14 years ago

        It sounds like you’ll be able to click something and get a list of everything that qualifies. Probably similar to how Complete My Album works.

    • Proesterchen
    • 14 years ago

    Definetely a move in the right direction.

    • l33t-g4m3r
    • 14 years ago

    if you can’t beat em, join them.

    • Mithent
    • 14 years ago

    The BBC is now reporting that EMI are to sell premium versions of tracks for more money but with higher quality and no DRM:

    §[<http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6516189.stm<]§ It would have been nicer if they didn't cost more, but I hope that other stores also stop using DRM. I don't want to install iTunes and buy from Apple.

    • Taddeusz
    • 14 years ago

    In other words they really have no idea. They’re just guessing. We’ll just have to wait and see.

      • eitje
      • 14 years ago

      exactly how i read it.

    • DrCR
    • 14 years ago

    Guess we’ll find out soon enough. If so, hopefully DRM will leave the vid sector as well…and a particular OS I could name…

    • adisor19
    • 14 years ago

    Oh man, i hope it’s not about the Beatles catalog and rather about DRM free music. If his Steeveness managed to get emi to sell tracks unprotected, then he should indeed be praised. Whether it’s his charisma or the RDF, you gotta give him props.


    • dragmor
    • 14 years ago

    woot, finally.

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