Just barely fulfilling its promise to have digital rights management-free music up on iTunes this month, Apple has released a new version of iTunes that makes EMI’s entire music catalog (except for Beatles tracks) available in higher-quality, DRM-free format. Nicknamed iTunes Plus, the new collection of DRM-free music includes songs and albums from Coldplay, Frank Sinatra, John Coltrane, Joss Stone, Norah Jones, Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, and The Rolling Stones. All iTunes Plus tracks are compressed in 256Kbps AAC format—twice the bit rate of other iTunes songs—and cost $1.29 a pop. Users can also upgrade their existing EMI tracks from the original 128Kbps DRM format to the new 256Kbps non-DRM format for 30 cents a piece. (Apple adds that “most” full albums will cost $3 to convert.) The new version of the iTunes software with iTunes Plus tracks is available from Apple’s website here.
Interestingly, Apple CEO Steve Jobs maintains comments made back in early April about the expected progress of DRM-free music. “We expect more than half of the songs on iTunes will be offered in iTunes Plus versions by the end of this year,” Jobs is quoted as saying in Apple’s press release.