01:09 AM

EMI, iTunes go DRM-free - and hi-fi to boot

Steve Jobs didn't announce the Beatles on iTunes today but what did he announce is frankly more important - a deal with EMI to sell music DRM-free, at higher quality and for an extra 30 cents. The AP reports:

"Doing the right thing for the customer going forward is to tear down the walls that impede interoperability," Jobs told a London news conference.

Jobs said that he planned to offer around half of all music in the iTunes store under the premium package by the end of the year, but declined to say whether the company was in discussions with other leading record companies.

"Consumers tell us overwhelmingly that they would be prepared to pay a higher price for digital music that they could use on any player," EMI CEO Eric Nicoli said. "It is key to unlocking and energizing the digital music business."

You don't just get DRM-free music for that price - you get higher quality music. News.com reported:

Consumers who have already purchased EMI tracks containing Apple's FairPlay copy protection will be able to upgrade them to the premium version for 30 cents, EMI said. Full albums in DRM-free form can be bought at the same price as standard iTunes albums.

"We are committed to embracing change, and to developing products and services that consumers really want to buy," said Nicoli, cited internal EMI tests in which higher-quality, DRM-free songs outsold its lower-quality, copy-protected counterparts 10-to-1.

Longtime DRM enemy Cory Doctorow was boing-boinging out of his seat.

This is some of the best news I've heard all year. DefectiveByDesign is soliciting ideas for a thank-you gift to Steve Jobs. This may just be a sneaky way of hiking music prices, but hell, it's a whole lot more than I thought we'd get. What's more, Apple pricing DRM-free music at $1.29 means that the $0.79-0.99 DRM-free MP3s from competing indie music stores will get a huge price advantage. I could not be happier right now.