EMI to sell entire music catalog without DRM, higher quality; Apple first to sell new downloads

Apple StoreEMI Group CEO Eric Nicoli today hosted a press conference at EMI’s headquarters in London where he announced that EMI Music is launching DRM-free superior quality downloads across its entire digital repertoire and that Apple’s iTunes Store will be the first online music store to sell EMI’s new downloads. Nicoli was joined by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The event also featured a musical performance by The Good, The Bad & The Queen.

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.

The new higher quality DRM-free music will complement EMI’s existing range of standard DRM-protected downloads already available. From today, EMI’s retailers will be offered downloads of tracks and albums in the DRM-free audio format of their choice in a variety of bit rates up to CD quality. EMI is releasing the premium downloads in response to consumer demand for high fidelity digital music for use on home music systems, mobile phones and digital music players. EMI’s new DRM-free products will enable full interoperability of digital music across all devices and platforms.

Eric Nicoli, CEO of EMI Group, said in the press release, “Our goal is to give consumers the best possible digital music experience. 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. Apple have been a true pioneer in digital music, and we are delighted that they share our vision of an interoperable market that provides consumers with greater choice, quality, convenience and value for money.”

“Selling digital music DRM-free is the right step forward for the music industry,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, in the press release. “EMI has been a great partner for iTunes and is once again leading the industry as the first major music company to offer its entire digital catalogue DRM-free.”

Apple’s iTunes Store is the first online music store to receive EMI’s new premium downloads. Apple has announced that iTunes will make individual AAC format tracks available from EMI artists at twice the sound quality of existing downloads, with their DRM removed, at a price of $1.29/€1.29/£0.99. iTunes will continue to offer consumers the ability to pay $0.99/€0.99/£0.79 for standard sound quality tracks with DRM still applied. Complete albums from EMI Music artists purchased on the iTunes Store will automatically be sold at the higher sound quality and DRM-free, with no change in the price. Consumers who have already purchased standard tracks or albums with DRM will be able to upgrade their digital music for $0.30/€0.30/£0.20 per track. All EMI music videos will also be available on the iTunes Store DRM-free with no change in price.

EMI is introducing a new wholesale price for premium single track downloads, while maintaining the existing wholesale price for complete albums. EMI expects that consumers will be able to purchase higher quality DRM-free downloads from a variety of digital music stores within the coming weeks, with each retailer choosing whether to sell downloads in AAC, WMA, MP3 or other unprotected formats of their choice. Music fans will be able to purchase higher quality DRM-free digital music for personal use, and listen to it on a wide range of digital music players and music-enabled phones.

EMI’s move follows a series of experiments it conducted recently. Norah Jones’s “Thinking About You”, Relient K’s “Must’ve Done Something Right”, and Lily Allen’s “Littlest Things” were all made available for sale in the MP3 format in trials held at the end of last year.

EMI Music will continue to employ DRM as appropriate to enable innovative digital models such as subscription services (where users pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to music), super-distribution (allowing fans to share music with their friends) and time-limited downloads (such as those offered by ad-supported services).

Nicoli added: “Protecting the intellectual property of EMI and our artists is as important as ever, and we will continue to work to fight piracy in all its forms and to educate consumers. We believe that fans will be excited by the flexibility that DRM-free formats provide, and will see this as an incentive to purchase more of our artists’ music.”

Apple iTunes

MacDailyNews Take: The pressure on the other major labels to follow EMI’s lead will be impossible to ignore. Middlebronfman’s head just popped off like a dandelion. Hopefully, the fire department has already been dispatched to catch Macrovision executives as they leap from the ledges.

Related article:
Apple: Higher quality 256 kbps AAC DRM-free music on iTunes Store coming in May – April 02, 2007
EMI rejects Warner Music buyout bid – March 04, 2007
EMI halts talks about selling DRM-free music – February 26, 2007
Warner Music approaches EMI in possible takeover bid – February 20, 2007
Macrovision posts pro-DRM open letter to Steve Jobs and digital entertainment industry – February 16, 2007
Warner’s DRM-loving Middlebronfman warns wireless industry it may lose music market to Apple iPhone – February 14, 2007
Monster Cable announces full support of Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ call for DRM-free music – February 13, 2007
BBC columnist doesn’t believe Steve Jobs’ Apple would stop using DRM if music labels would allow it – February 12, 2007
EMI may sell entire music catalog DRM-free – February 09, 2007
Recording Industry Association of America wants their DRM, calls for Apple to license FairPlay – February 08, 2007
Warner’s Middlebronfman: Jobs’ DRM-free music call ‘without logic and merit, we’ll not abandon DRM’ – February 08, 2007
Apple’s Jobs jolts music industry; Zune exec calls Jobs’ call for DRM-free music ‘irresponsible’ – February 07, 2007
Technology Review editor gets a lot wrong in his article about Apple CEO Jobs’ push to end DRM – February 07, 2007
Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ posts rare open letter: ‘Thoughts on Music’ – calls for DRM-free music – February 06, 2007

61 Comments

  1. I still thought it was an April Fool’s trick since the only links offered were Windoze Media and Real Player. If it ‘s a real (no pun intended) wouldn’t Jobs insist that they use QuickTime?

    I can’t get the feed eaither. It would have worked fine with QT.

  2. You’re either part of the problem, part of the solution, or part of the scenery.

    Now that EMI has collectively pulled their heads from their posteriors, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of them crumbles, either by their own choice or by market forces.

    This is very good news for music consumers.. no telling if this will effect movies and other forms of media, time will tell.

  3. Okay. It’s about time. The rest will be forced to follow soon enough.

    The 256K sample rate is a good start, but Apple Lossless would be better. I just re-ripped a lot of my music in Lossless and it’s a huge improvement over 256 w/variable bit rate.

    If you’re into interesting and/or obscure music, you’re STILL out of luck.

    Connected to the webcast a bit late, so all I’m hearing is some generic rock music. zzzzzzzzz

  4. Ace – check the press release page on EMI.

    Artists include: Lily Allen, The Beatles, Coldplay, Corinne Bailey Rae, The Good The Bad & The Queen, Gorillaz, Norah Jones, The Kooks, Korn, Kylie Minogue, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Joss Stone, 30 Seconds To Mars, KT Tunstall, Keith Urban and Robbie Williams, as well as international artists such as Amaral (Spain), Diam’s (France), Utada Hikaru (Japan), LaFee (Germany), Radja (Indonesia), RBD (Mexico) and Vasco Rossi (Italy).

  5. Time for those of us who care about DRM free content and giving music consumers back power and ownership of their music to step up and reward EMI for their brave decision. Don’t buy from Warner, Sony, etc til they cave, and load up on all the EMI artists that you like.

    The RIAA doesn’t listen to people bitching and whining, heck they sue 10 year old girls, and grandmothers, but one thing they DO pay attention to is MONEY.

    Cold. Hard. Cash.

    If they see it flowing into EMI’s pocket and not into theirs, I assure you they will sing a very different tune *very* quickly.

  6. This will be interesting to follow. Are consumers willing to pay thirty cents extra for higher quality, DRM-free music, or will they watch their wallets and continue to purchase music w/ DRM for 99 cents? Very interesting indeed!

  7. making all of its digital repertoire available at a much higher sound quality than existing downloads and free of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions.

    Does this include the Beatles?

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