Apple’s iTunes Store goes DRM-free and 3G via iPhone; variable pricing coming soon

Apple today announced several changes to the iTunes Store. Beginning today, all four major music labels—Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Warner Music Group and EMI, along with thousands of independent labels, are now offering their music in iTunes Plus, Apple’s DRM-free format with higher-quality 256 kbps AAC encoding. iTunes customers can also choose to download their favorite songs from the world’s largest music catalog directly onto their iPhone 3G over their 3G network just as they do with Wi-Fi today, for the same price as downloading to their computer. And beginning in April, based on what the music labels charge Apple, songs on iTunes will be available at one of three price points: 69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29, with most albums still priced at $9.99.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer our iTunes customers DRM-free iTunes Plus songs in high quality audio and our iPhone 3G customers the ability to download music from iTunes anytime, anywhere over their 3G network at the same price as downloading to your computer or via Wi-Fi,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, in the press release. “And in April, based on what the music labels charge Apple, songs on iTunes will be available at one of three price points—69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29—with many more songs priced at 69 cents than $1.29.”

iTunes offers customers a simple, one-click option to easily upgrade their entire library of previously purchased songs to the higher quality DRM-free iTunes Plus format for just 30 cents per song or 30 percent of the album price. The iTunes Store will begin offering eight million of its 10 million songs in Apple’s DRM-free format, iTunes Plus, today with the remaining two million songs offered in iTunes Plus by the end of March.

iPhone 3G users can now preview and purchase the entire iTunes Store music catalog on their iPhone 3G over their 3G network, just as they do with Wi-Fi today, for the same price and in the same high quality format. Songs purchased on an iPhone will automatically sync to a user’s computer the next time they sync their iPhone.

The iTunes Store is the world’s most popular online music, TV and movie store with a catalog of over 10 million songs, over 30,000 TV episodes and over 2,500 films including over 600 in stunning high definition video. With Apple’s legendary ease of use, pioneering features such as iTunes Movie Rentals, integrated podcasting support, the ability to turn previously purchased tracks into complete albums at a reduced price, and seamless integration with iPod and iPhone, the iTunes Store is the best way for Mac and PC users to legally discover, purchase and download music and video online.

Source: Apple Inc.


  1. @R2

    So sad, though it is nice that Apple was able to limit the max to $1.29, hopefully the labels won’t abuse and Apple will have some power to limit the number of songs they have at that higher price (only singles/albums in the top 100 billboards are allowed? something like that I could see).

    I also hope that Apple keeps the consumer well aware where the higher price is coming from (note in the press release that it’s “based on what the music labels charge”, hopefully they will keep such language visible so the consumer knows that when they are paying a higher price, it isn’t Apple’s, it’s the music cartels price.

  2. A song for 129c isn’t unreasonable, but the idea of paying a bunch of no-talent music executives who rape their artists and sue 13 year old girls, single moms, grandmothers, and dead people leaves a decidedly bad taste in my mouth.

    The idea that these bozos got what they want without any real concessions on their part really frosts me.

    Are we at least going to see ALL tracks in every album available at this new price? Or are we still stuck with “album only” tracks and other BS just at a higher price?

  3. Good songs: $1.29 or Album Only
    Recently released album: $14.99 (I bet)
    Fillers: $0.69

    This sucks, music cartels took advantage of Steve’s condition.
    What a sad day for consumers.

  4. @MrScrith,

    Who’s to say $1.29 is the limit? What happens when Apple has another new product in the future that requires extra iTunes music/movie functionality and gets taken back to the negotiating table? The labels might decide $1.29 wasn’t enough and $1.50 or $1.99 is more to their satisfaction.

  5. ““We are thrilled to be able to offer our iTunes customers DRM-free iTunes Plus songs …”

    Just because software based DRM isn’t included in the music file doesn’t mean DRM is gone. IE: Does it mean I’ll be able to add a photo to my iPhone from my wife’s Mac *without* having it threaten to erase all my media? Will they allow unrestricted sharing media to any (unauthorized) computer? Somehow I doubt that, which means Apple’s DRM scheme is still alive and well … it’s simply implemented at the hardware level.

  6. Important point everyone seems to overlook: Inflation.

    99c when the iTunes store was opened is $1.17 today. This is barely a price raise at all.

    Plus, it was my understanding that the prices aren’t set at the record companies’ whim. Rather, new songs are added at $1.29, then as they age are automatically reduced to 99c and 69c.

    This is very much a concession on the part of the record companies. I’m sure they would have preferred to keep DRM, and to be able to set the price to whatever the hell they want!

    I mean, c’mon folks! Did you really expect to see sub-$1 iTunes singles until the end of time? Prices go up. It’s the way things work.


  7. @Brau
    What the hell are you talking about? iTunesPlus songs are .m4a files. They’ll play in any application or device that reads that format.

    (Now, I am curious if the files are watermarked to track piracy…)


  8. To all those that believe Apple won this one I say: morons, all. To those that see Apple not only acquiescing to the labels but actually taking the lead in doing their bidding you are spot on. Today Apple became a shill for the music labels. Yeah, I know – ‘but, but, but, they gained freedom from DRM’ – what a load. You could already buy DRM-free from Amazon, Rhapsody, Napster, etc. The labels gave up ZERO on this deal. Yes, AAC is better than MP3. No, Apple doesn’t need iTunes (although I’m sure by now they’d really HATE to lose it) but the fact remains, Apple lost to the execs on this one.

  9. it is not worth 30 cents each to strip DRM from my songs…I bet the bill for my library is $300-600

    .I listen on my computer or thru my ipod when hooked to my car, earphones and stereo…Can burn to CD if needed…..what’s the point of stripping DRM? Its not as if I am going to buy a zune or something

    only on my stereo is quality a factor and I have ears much older than 20 years old, so there really isn’t a point there either

  10. They should do what gas companies do here–thanks to the outrageous gas prices in the summer, there are stickers on pumps that break down the cost of gas–how much their suppliers charge them, how much is gas tax, and finally how much they actually make.

    I’d LOVE to see something like this in the iTunes store, especially if it can be done for each song. The public would see, firsthand, how much the labels are gouging not just the buyer, but the artist too.

  11. ITMS DRM ripper is called “Requiem” available on your local P2P networks or PirateBay.

    You’ll need the right version/latest and Transmission or another OS compatable P2P software to download Requiem.

    You might need to download a older version of iTunes too.

    You’ll need help from websites to get over the bumps, may even have to transfer files to a PC and do it there.

    The benefit to DRM stripping is the ellimination of degrading the music file by the burning/ripping method to strip DRM.

    Of course as you well know, just because the DRM is now gone off of iTMS doesn’t mean the files are not digitally signed with your information.

    I would certainly bet they are, with iTMS can do on the fly while downloading to your computer.

  12. No, there is no digital watermarking. Apple has fought that tooth and nail, primarily because it degrades sound quality noticeably. However, it seems that labels were quite happy with the existing meta-tagging, wherein every file you download is automatically tagged with your own user information. This has been in original iTunes files since day one (over 5 years ago). Of course, if you knew how, you could strip the meta data out of the AAC files, one by one.

    Also, it seems that Apple is going to allow everyone who already has DRM-wrapped files to automatically UPGRADE them to the 256kbps, DRM-free files. Therefore, if you have enough disk space, you can re-download everything again. Obviously, it will take twice as much space, but it will sound dramatically better, and it will be DRM-free.

    As for making the iPod accessible in both directions (so that you can upload a picture from your sister’s iPhoto without risking wiping out everything by associating it with her iTunes), not much likely to happen. This was one of the early conditions (never asked of other makers, since they’re obviously below the RIAA’s radar due to minuscule market share), so it’s doubtful it would happen any time soon. Then again, who knows; if this DRM-free “experiment” goes well for the labels (i.e. doesn’t increase piracy), they may consider even removing that iPod restriction as well.

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