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EMI goes DRMless
April 2, 2007 6:06 AM   Subscribe

EMI announces they will begin offering their catalog through online stores sans DRM. Apple's iTunes Store to be among the first, offering a 2-tier price structure featuring 2 different quality versions. Sorry if this is a repeat. I swear I searched first.
posted by Thorzdad (107 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Aw, that's it? I was hoping for...y'know...
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:14 AM on April 2, 2007


"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."

Interesting. Sounds like maybe, at last, someone gets it.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:15 AM on April 2, 2007


Interesting. Sounds like maybe, at last, someone gets it.
It will be interesting to see if the anti-DRM forces put their money where their mouths are and make this move by EMI a success.
Or is this just EMI calling a bluff?
Insert the obligatory "No ogg, no way" comment here
posted by Thorzdad at 6:19 AM on April 2, 2007


I understand the price tiering for quality improvement (something Warp's Bleep does) but I'm still trying to puzzle out the discount for DRMed tracks.

Perhaps it is financial insurance for Apple, when users have a pool of DRMless tracks and can decide not to buy an iPod in the future. But then if you get your music through the iTunes Music Store it seems like you'd be using an iPod anyway.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:20 AM on April 2, 2007


List of EMI Artists
posted by chris24 at 6:20 AM on April 2, 2007


The real reason they're dropping DRM is to get around apples near monopoly with the iPod/iTunes. The record companies insistence on DRM ended up creating a closed system controlled almost entirely by a single vendor.

By dropping DRM from their tracks, EMI is going to be able to sell music that will play on an iPod (which is most of the market) from any online store.

That said, $1.29 a track? WTF? Even 99¢ is way too much. IMO, tracks should be about 30¢ or less, and new bands should be cheaper then 'established' crap like Britney Spears and Creed.
posted by delmoi at 6:21 AM on April 2, 2007


Interesting too that only the DRM-free singles have increased in price. DRM-free albums cost the same as before.
posted by markdj at 6:21 AM on April 2, 2007


That said, $1.29 a track? WTF? Even 99¢ is way too much.

Absolutely. Jeezus, you'd think musicians had to eat and pay rent for fuck's sake...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:27 AM on April 2, 2007


Great news. I'll be sticking to my Napster subscription plus occasional CD purchases but this is a really positive move by EMI.
posted by teleskiving at 6:28 AM on April 2, 2007


How much of that $1.29 goes to the artists and how much goes to EMI and Apple?
posted by sveskemus at 6:29 AM on April 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Won't someone think of the Record Execs?
You think gas prices are rising-- hookers and blow expenses are already up 28% this quarter.
posted by Dizzy at 6:31 AM on April 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Absolutely. Jeezus, you'd think musicians had to eat and pay rent for fuck's sake...

I'm curious if the artists get an increased cut, too.
posted by jmd82 at 6:34 AM on April 2, 2007


The real reason they're dropping DRM is to get around apples near monopoly with the iPod/iTunes.

Even though Apple pushed for dropping DRM, pushed that they wanted to sell files without DRM and would in a minute, and were in on this announcement?

Seems like that might not be the reason.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 6:34 AM on April 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


In all reality, as physical distribution slows the need for record companies slows with it. I doubt it will be very long before artists seek out ad agencies to get their name and other small, agencies for Internet distribution.

The whole thing is posed to become very undistributed. It might not quite be there yet, but I see in the future a few non-traditionally indie bands (that is established, serious commercial bands) start to see their more sophisticated fans can deal with downloading albums from their websites.

Of course in this wonderful new world I also see record stores still existing for consumers who don't have the sophistication or access to the Internet. Only CDs are pressed/burnt in a back room. These aren't vinyl anymore, there's no real reason they should be shipped halfway around the country.
posted by geoff. at 6:37 AM on April 2, 2007


sveskemus:
according to this link, 35% to Apple and 65% to record label from which artists get 8-14%, Or about 10-14% depening on which article you read.
posted by jmd82 at 6:37 AM on April 2, 2007


That EMI list looks kinda tiny. Aren't they England's largest music publisher? Or is that BMI?
posted by parmanparman at 6:40 AM on April 2, 2007


Since it doesn't look like they'll be selling on emusic, they still aren't going to get my money, but good for them.
posted by drezdn at 6:41 AM on April 2, 2007


I wonder if Apple's wanting DRM-free music is because they feel they are wasting development assets and time making them. Perhaps they're thinking what's the point when the last two man years spent developing the latest version of Apple iTunes DRM is cracked two days later by some teenager in Helsinki.
posted by PenDevil at 6:41 AM on April 2, 2007


According to Apple’s press release, the DRM-free files are 256kbps AAC, whilst the DRM-enabled files are still 128kbps.
posted by ijoshua at 6:45 AM on April 2, 2007


Worth noting that while iTunes is their first partner, they say they're going to be offering this to any digital retailer - high quality, DRM-free tracks in AAC, MP3 or WMA formats, whichever the retailer prefers. So while it's iTunes only right now, there's no reason why it won't crop up on [your favourite online music store] soonish.

But no, still no Ogg.
posted by flashboy at 6:45 AM on April 2, 2007


If you listened to the press conference, one journalist asked what the point of continuing to copy protect the 128kbps tracks is. He didn't have an answer, other than "so we don't raise prices for our customers", which is exaclty what they are doing.
posted by cillit bang at 6:46 AM on April 2, 2007


Needless to say, music sold through bleep (warp, soma, hefty, etc.), kompakt, and others have been DRM-free since day one.
posted by four panels at 6:48 AM on April 2, 2007


Oh, and I went searching through the iTunes Store for the new files, but then I re-read Apple’s press release, which states that they won’t be available until sometime in May.
posted by ijoshua at 6:50 AM on April 2, 2007


#cillit bang, one could argue that they are charging an higher price for a new product that is more valuable. The price of the pre-existing product remains unchanged.
posted by ijoshua at 6:52 AM on April 2, 2007


Wow. This means that I'm actually going to start buying music online. Kudos!
posted by Afroblanco at 6:54 AM on April 2, 2007


The real reason they're dropping DRM is to get around apples near monopoly with the iPod/iTunes.

I don't get that. This deal would not have worked without Apple's consent to begin with — and there's no way Apple will deliberately undercut its own profits unless there is something in it for the company.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:54 AM on April 2, 2007


Alternative list of EMI artists at Wikipedia.
posted by teleskiving at 6:56 AM on April 2, 2007


Absolutely. Jeezus, you'd think musicians had to eat and pay rent for fuck's sake...

Pff, most musicians probably arn't making 33¢/track of iTunes anyway. Why not just let them set whatever price they want, and get all the money themselves?
posted by delmoi at 6:57 AM on April 2, 2007


Why not just let them set whatever price they want, and get all the money themselves?

Because then the labels and Apple wouldn't make any money, and capitalism would be defeated. And then there'd be nothing to listen to but drab, grey songs by people in uniforms exhorting you to work hard in the fields of your local collective farm growing turnips.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:00 AM on April 2, 2007 [14 favorites]


This deal would not have worked without Apple's consent to begin with

Well, obviously the deal with Apple would have been impossible, but EMI could have gone to one of the other sellers first if Apple had dragged their feet.

And honestly, if someone like Yahoo Music has the same terms but sells MP3s instead of AACs, I'd be inclined to buy there instead. AACs are a bit of a pain.
posted by smackfu at 7:11 AM on April 2, 2007


There's unlimited supply
And there is no reason why
I tell you it was all a frame
They only did it 'cos of fame
posted by klangklangston at 7:12 AM on April 2, 2007


Most or all of the additional money will probably go to EMI. Think of it as an insurance policy. EMI has decided that the maximum probable losses for going without DRM is about 30 cents per track. EMI is doing what a sane business should do and factor in 'piracy' as a business cost rather than a technological challenge. I don't know if the 30 cents is high or low but I also don't care. I haven't looked over an Apple annual report in a while, but in the past the iTunes store was always a loss leader. They don't make fantastic money on it but it does lead to additional iPod sales.

I'm willing to pony up an extra 30 cents for DRM free music, even though I'll never really make use of it. It protects me in the event that Apple ever goes under and provides additional protection because I can archive the files and know that even if my hardware dies, I can't get my new machine reauthorized and a whole slew of unlikely events I'll still be able to access my music. As a consumer I have the choice of paying the same amount for the same service I was already getting or paying an additional fee for extra features.
posted by substrate at 7:16 AM on April 2, 2007


The surcharge for uncrippled files (or DRM discount, if you prefer) is interesting from an economic standpoint.

I'm pretty sure this will be the first time we'll be able to do an apples-to-apples (sorry) comparison of sales of DRM'd tracks to sales of DRM-less ones: perhaps Apple will release some sales figures in a few months, so we'll know what proportion of customers think no DRM is important enough that they'll pay extra for it. Admittedly, this is clouded by the bit-rate difference, but it's still the best opportunity for good data so far.
posted by adamrice at 7:18 AM on April 2, 2007


That's a really good price, actually. Dance music stores typically charge up to $2.50 a track for the same thing.
posted by empath at 7:24 AM on April 2, 2007


adamrice: $0.35 per track * 2 billion tracks sold through iTunes = $700 million in revenue for Apple.com.
posted by bhouston at 7:35 AM on April 2, 2007


If they started doing this in the days when people slowly downloaded a track at a time from Napster, maybe they would have gotten somewhere. Now, you get entire discographies from BitTorrent at comparable speeds to a real, hosted, website - there's not much advantage to buying.

And Apple's offering it in AAC, making it even less attractive.

But no, still no Ogg.

My friends and I have on occasion accidentally downloaded Oggs. The standard reaction is "Hey, some asshole uploaded Oggs" and delete.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:47 AM on April 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Third (third? is that all) the "no Ogg = meh". Actually, this is pretty cool and the only reason I've never bought a track from ITMS is the DRM -- I've often wanted to, just to hear what all the fuss was about on some new record or band mentioned in the blue, green or gray, but the DRM really put me off. Now that it's gone, though, I can't help think: for that price I should be able to transcode to whatever format I like. If not Ogg or FLAC, why not offer it in ALAC, which iTunes already supports. Is lossless considered so pernicious that it will simply destroy the music industry even to acknowledge that it exists?
posted by The Bellman at 7:48 AM on April 2, 2007


The surcharge for uncrippled files...

One thing you can't hide
is when you're crippled inside.

posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:50 AM on April 2, 2007


I'm getting shy about buying via iTunes. I've honked myself THREE times and lost all my purchases for whatever reason. I shop at another vendor (unrelated to music) that keeps a list of your purchases for some months and allows you to re-download such items something like 3 or 4 times. Apple needs to look into that.

/Is Woz still reading MeFi? Maybe he can send a memo to Jobs. ;)
posted by RavinDave at 7:53 AM on April 2, 2007


I would pay $2/track for lossless encoding.

But I am a nut about those things, and music companies know that, and they know that if I really think hard enough about it I'll go buy the CD or something. Or vinyl.

I have the same reaction to oggs, most of the time, as TheOnlyCoolTim. Sorry, I guess I lose geek cred for that.
posted by blacklite at 7:56 AM on April 2, 2007


The DRM-free files are twice the bitrate (256kbps), so you're not just paying for the lack of DRM, but a much higher quality too.
posted by influx at 7:58 AM on April 2, 2007


Also sounds to me like EMI finally gets it and I think this is great. As for the extra price, I don't see how EMI could pocket the difference. An artist royalty is typically a percentage of a wholesale or retail price so if those goes up, they make more money.

It will be interesting to see how this affects eMusic. Although it's a great service, many artists and labels are not huge fans of it because they don't make as much money from each downloaded track as they would from iTunes or a similar service. Rumours are that eMusic is going to be sold soon anyway, possibly to Amazon.
posted by gfrobe at 7:58 AM on April 2, 2007


AACs are a bit of a pain.

Apple's offering it in AAC, making it even less attractive.

I don't get this. What's wrong with AAC?
posted by sveskemus at 7:58 AM on April 2, 2007


I don't get this. What's wrong with AAC?

Compatibility. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone owns an iPod. There actually are other MP3 players out there... in fact, there's even a reason why they're still called "MP3 players".
posted by Foosnark at 8:07 AM on April 2, 2007


AAC? Car stereo doesn't play it. Tivo doesn't play it. Both play MP3s, so given the choice, I'd choose that format.

It's not like DRM-free AAC is a popular format in the wild.
posted by smackfu at 8:10 AM on April 2, 2007


AAC isn't an iPod only format. It can be played on pretty much any decent music player. It was the Fairplay DRM that locked the iTunes AAC files to iPods, not their inate AACness.
posted by flashboy at 8:12 AM on April 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why do so many people think that AAC is some kind of proprietary Apple format? It's the audio layer of MPEG-4 (they should probably have called it mp4 to avoid all this confusion). It's probably the most widely supported format after mp3 at this point. Even the Zune and Xbox 360 play AAC.
posted by influx at 8:19 AM on April 2, 2007


Absolutely. Jeezus, you'd think musicians had to eat and pay rent for fuck's sake...

How much of that $1.29 goes to the artists and how much goes to EMI and Apple?

YAAAAAAY 1999 INTERNET ARGUMENT YAAAAAAAAYYYYY
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:19 AM on April 2, 2007 [3 favorites]


Apple needs to look into that.

I bought a track from the iTunes Music Store last week and got a prompt asking me whether I wanted to "back up" my music using their service. I ignored the prompt; but apparently there is a way to recover your music now, if you're inclined to use it.

Is lossless considered so pernicious...

From the record companies' standpoint, it's probably considered a waste of time and effort akin to stocking $20,000 speaker cables on the retail shelves at Circuit City. So-called "lossless" formats offer minimal (to most people, negligible) benefit and require vastly more storage capacity. If you spend enough time around trading forums* then you might be misled into believing that enough people would buy FLAC over MP3 to make it profitable, but you'd be wrong.

* I'm always amused by the vehement opposition to "lossy" formats in forums where most of what's being traded are bootlegs recorded from the 45th row of a stadium using a microphone that's been clipped inside somebody's sleeve. I'll take the MP3 soundboard, thanks.
posted by cribcage at 8:21 AM on April 2, 2007


Ogg Vorbis, are there neckbeards that still use that shit?

How's it feel to be using the digital audio equivalent of Betamax?
posted by keswick at 8:23 AM on April 2, 2007 [5 favorites]


My first thoughts on this were that the man on the street won't care too much about increased sound quality or freedom from lock-in with ITMS songs, and probably won't jump to pay more for these benefits.

But Apple's coup here was to link DRM-free music to higher audio quality, and thus to a 'better' product. Because of this I think we'll start to see DRM-less purchases becoming very popular on ITMS; whether consumers have the kit to tell the difference between 128kbps and 256kbps audio is beside the point. The price difference is stomachable (zero difference for albums + a small fee to 'upgrade' to higher quality DRM-free tracks for tunes you already own).
posted by scrm at 8:24 AM on April 2, 2007


My brand-new Samsung flash-based player doesn't play AACs. A quick look at Amazon indicates that most Creative Labs players don't do it either. Not that it makes much difference, I'm sure the EMI catalogue will be available elsewhere very soon in other formats.
posted by teleskiving at 8:27 AM on April 2, 2007


AAC? Car stereo doesn't play it. Tivo doesn't play it. Both play MP3s, so given the choice, I'd choose that format.

It may be just an iTunes thing. During the podcast the guy from EMI said they were making 320kbps mp3s from The Good the Bad and the Queen available here.

Overall I think this is a really positive feature, especially the ability to upgrade tracks already purchased and keeping the album price the same.
posted by bobo123 at 8:29 AM on April 2, 2007


The unspoken (so far, it seems to me) benefit of this is that it's a shot across the bow of other record companies. Before too long, I imagine, all of the big boys will be playing DRM-free, and that's a wonderful thing.
posted by grubi at 8:33 AM on April 2, 2007


With this, 80 GB models, and true gapless playback, my decision to go with the Neuros N2 over the iPod is looking dumber and dumber every day. Ah well, at least it was cheap. Because it's discontinued and unsupported.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 8:34 AM on April 2, 2007


AAC? Car stereo doesn't play it. Tivo doesn't play it.

That's pretty crappy. As noted upthread, AAC is not a closed format. I have an iPod now but before that I had some kind of Creative mp3 player. That could play AAC. My Nokia phone plays AAC. I use Xbox Media Center which plays AAC.

Even the brown Zune plays AAC.

BTW, it seems there is a workaround for the Tivo Desktop software that makes it convert AACs to mp3s on the fly. But it sucks that it doesn't just work out of the box.
posted by sveskemus at 8:35 AM on April 2, 2007


Don't forget, that Albums are still $9.99 each, DRM free. With the recent news that the instant download single killing the album sales, I can see why they would give the higher price point album the DRM free nod. That, combined with apple's new plan to allow you to purchase the rest of the album at a reduced rate (so you purchase at price - songs you already paid for) hopefully that will be the cheapest way to convert your current collection to DRM free.

I will buy some songs just to see if the songs are downloaded as .m4a's or .mp3s (most portable music players made in the last two years support .m4a / aac or aac+, as that has started to become the standard for cell phones / smaller audio formats).
posted by mrzarquon at 8:36 AM on April 2, 2007


Oh I must also add, only for the true geeks out there, that I believe this is referenced in the latest Pynchon novel, Against the Day.

One of the many, what you can call loosely as plots, involves Tesla building wireless energy, but the powers to be always trying to destroy it on account of their inability to profit off the populace. I've been swapping ideas back and forth with a few other Pynchon fans and I'm pretty certain, given that pretty much everything in that book mirrors modern day life (indeed doubling is really drilled into your head), it would not be a far stretch to believe the Telsa story is really a metaphor for the Internet and electronic distribution.

It fits really well on a cursory reading, but a more scholarly look back will be needed to see if that's what he really meant or if I'm making an a priori fallacy.
posted by geoff. at 8:44 AM on April 2, 2007


Lossless: The benefit of buying your music (or ripping it) in a lossless format is that you can transcode it to whatever codec you want and you won't suffer a (transcoding) loss in audio quality. When you transcode all of your AAC music into the format of the day in 5 years time, you'll probably notice the difference, even on a portable player.


If Betamax quality was available today (OK 3 years ago before digital formats came in) I would use it - the advantage of digital / codecs is that you can use whatever you like without bieng inherently tied in to a hardware specification (e.g. load Rockbox over the top of the crappy operating system that came with your personal music player and make use of whatever codec you like, AAC and OGG/Vorbis supported)
posted by daveg at 8:55 AM on April 2, 2007


BTW, it seems there is a workaround for the Tivo Desktop software that makes it convert AACs to mp3s on the fly. But it sucks that it doesn't just work out of the box.
posted by sveskemus


Actually, anyone using iTunes can convert the file-formats at will via the iTunes preference pane, though I'm not sure how the DRM interacts with that. From my own experience, you can convert MP3s and AAC files to WAV, AIFF, Apple Lossless and back again.

So the whining is unnecessary.
posted by vhsiv at 9:04 AM on April 2, 2007


If you listened to the press conference, one journalist asked what the point of continuing to copy protect the 128kbps tracks is. He didn't have an answer, other than "so we don't raise prices for our customers", which is exaclty what they are doing.

I reckon the real reason they're keeping the DRM'd tracks around at 79c is that Joe Consumer is going to keep buying those in greater volume because they're cheaper and "guh, DRM, what's that", and then the record companies can turn around and say, "HAH, Jobsy! We told you they wanted DRM!"
posted by chrismear at 9:09 AM on April 2, 2007


It will be interesting to see if the anti-DRM forces put their money where their mouths are and make this move by EMI a success.

I'm pretty happy with EMusic right now, plus my main system is a Gentoo Linux box. These things work iffy w/ITunes, at best, even with emulation.

However, for kick-ass groups like Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers, Blind Boys of Alabama, and Massive Attack, it looks like a win for me, and I do plan to check it out!
posted by Asim at 9:10 AM on April 2, 2007


i won't be happy until i can download my favorite records in their original, multitrack, reel-to-reel format. or the actual waves of compressed air before they were captured by the microphone.
posted by snofoam at 9:30 AM on April 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


So the whining is unnecessary.

My position is that given a choice between DRM-free MP3 and AAC, I'll choose MP3 for practical reasons. Why would you buy AAC and transcode? That's just silly if you don't need to

And I really don't doubt someone else will offer MP3s, since EMI said:

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.
posted by smackfu at 9:30 AM on April 2, 2007


Why do so many people think that AAC is some kind of proprietary Apple format? It's the audio layer of MPEG-4 (they should probably have called it mp4 to avoid all this confusion). It's probably the most widely supported format after mp3 at this point. Even the Zune and Xbox 360 play AAC.

With the notable exception of the Ipod, the second-most supported would seem to be WMA.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:38 AM on April 2, 2007


As to what Apple gets out of this- The bigger files will make my current ipod that much smaller. I must buy more ipods. I must buy more ipods.
posted by pointilist at 9:46 AM on April 2, 2007


how much is a blank CD? 3 or 4 cents? And CdEx is a free download.

Since the markup is more than that per album, I see no reason to stop doing what I do now:

buy the iTunes files, burn to CD, rip CD to mp3, delete iTunes files.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:48 AM on April 2, 2007


or, for the conservationists out there, I suppose you could invest in one CD-RW and use it to burn/rip over and over again.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:49 AM on April 2, 2007


They mention lossless in general but not in specific; if they start selling lossless, DRM-free files, I'll happily buy them if they're cheaper than CDs. If they'd sell them at $5, that would be perfect, and I'd buy a metric assload of new music.

As far 'no ogg'... if you can get lossless, it solves the entire format problem, as you can generate any other format you want without generational quality loss. You can listen to the FLACs and make your own MP3 or ogg at whatever bitrate you like for whatever player you like.

What's been really stupid about having to ask for this: we already have this product. It's called a "compact disc". I imagine they've probably heard of them.
posted by Malor at 9:52 AM on April 2, 2007


how much is a blank CD? 3 or 4 cents? And CdEx is a free download.

Since the markup is more than that per album, I see no reason to stop doing what I do now:

buy the iTunes files, burn to CD, rip CD to mp3, delete iTunes files.


Significant increase in sound quality. That's a pretty damned good reason to care.
posted by Mikey-San at 9:55 AM on April 2, 2007


What's been really stupid about having to ask for this: we already have this product. It's called a "compact disc".

Yes, but you can't mooch a compact disc off Limewire.
posted by solistrato at 10:00 AM on April 2, 2007


buy the iTunes files, burn to CD, rip CD to mp3, delete iTunes files.

Shortcut:
Have a portable music player that doesn't support certain audio files? Do you wish it did? Now, with MuvAudio, you can convert them to a format that your player supports, quickly and easily. It's your audio; you should be able to listen to it wherever your music player takes you."
- MuvAudio.com
posted by Tubes at 10:10 AM on April 2, 2007


As to what Apple gets out of this- The bigger files will make my current ipod that much smaller. I must buy more ipods. I must buy more ipods.

I think what Apple gets out of this is actually a better position in the market. It's the same reason Walmart supports increasing the minimum wage now: increasing costs for everyone is best for the market leader. Ditching DRM increases costs for everyone else, as iTunes competitors can no longer use their lack of DRM and their compatibility with non-iPod players to a competitive advantage.
posted by scottreynen at 10:24 AM on April 2, 2007


keswick, thank you SO much for my new favorite word. Pitch perfect.
posted by cavalier at 10:46 AM on April 2, 2007


I'm sticking my neck out, but on the subject of what Apple gets out of this, I think that going DRM-free now is the only way that online music sales will not get completely annihilated by alternative models of music listening as soon as someone comes up with a good implementation of pay-per-play/pay-per-minute on mobile devices. Imagine if for the price of a single three-minute song, you could get an hour of listening to whatever you like.
posted by teleskiving at 10:57 AM on April 2, 2007


"But no, still no Ogg."

keswick: Aside from flashboy and maybe 9 other nerds? I don't know. heh. Not one single person I know uses Ogg, but anyone I ask says "FINALLY!" to the fact that you can now get 256kbps AAC instead of 128kbps.

For audio files that you're going to play through your iPod 95% of the time, they sound just fine.

"iTunes will also offer customers a simple, one-click option to easily upgrade their entire library of all previously purchased EMI content to the higher quality DRM-free format for 30 cents a song. All EMI music videos will also be available in DRM-free format with no change in price."

That's a decent feature right there. I remember when emusic went to their VBR encoding and right around the same time they put that stupid monthly download cap on my account. (I was previously paying for their 'unlimited downloads')
posted by drstein at 11:05 AM on April 2, 2007


emusic let you upgrade your songs to VBR without it counting against your downloads. Still do. Better than Apple.
posted by smackfu at 11:20 AM on April 2, 2007


I think Apple did this in order to maintain their leadership position in the digital media distribution world. Since they are now partially DRM free, it makes Itunes even more attractive to the consumer.
posted by clockworkjoe at 11:36 AM on April 2, 2007


"buy the iTunes files, burn to CD, rip CD to mp3, delete iTunes files."

mmmm, a photocopy of a photocopy. THAT'S good listenin'
posted by keswick at 11:54 AM on April 2, 2007


With the notable exception of the Ipod, the second-most supported would seem to be WMA.

Not if you look at it from the point of view of market share it isn't. 7/8 of those players may support WMA, but the one that accounts for 80%+ of the market doesn't.
posted by influx at 12:32 PM on April 2, 2007


chrismear's point is the thing that worries me about this. It will be interesting to see how the different prices are actually offered in the iTMS -- will you have to change arcane preferences or click through to obscure pages/tabs, or will it be THIS SONG $1.29 (also available crufted up for skinflints at $.99)? The sales data for these tracks will be used in many ways, and their "placement on the shelf" will matter a great deal.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:46 PM on April 2, 2007


Imagine if for the price of a single three-minute song, you could get an hour of listening to whatever you like.

I can't imagine this catching on. People don't like pay-per-use models, even if they're cheaper in the long run. Because that makes every track a spending decision every time.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:50 PM on April 2, 2007


cillit bang, one could argue that they are charging an higher price for a new product that is more valuable. The price of the pre-existing product remains unchanged.

Well yes, but the copy protection was never part of the product before, it was something they added because [we were told] they had to. They've now declared copy protection is no longer useful, yet they're still adding it to their tracks some of the time. It's now just a deliberate crippling for product differentiation.
posted by cillit bang at 1:01 PM on April 2, 2007


Ogg Vorbis, are there neckbeards that still use that shit?

And here I thought I was the only one to refer to those people as neckbeards.
posted by metaly at 1:11 PM on April 2, 2007


It's now just a deliberate crippling for product differentiation.

No, it's the same product that you bought yesterday. It would be crippling if they reduced sound quality or tightened the terms of service.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:27 PM on April 2, 2007


One other wrinkle that occurred to me: Apple lets you upgrade DRMd tracks you previously bought for 30¢ each. This could be viewed as a "get out of iPod" tax. Apple's way of saying "You want to use a Zune? [chuckle] OK, but it's gonna cost you."

I think the DRM-less offering is a good thing, but still. Interesting.
posted by adamrice at 1:42 PM on April 2, 2007


And here I thought I was the only one to refer to those people as neckbeards.

Fairly common on the Something Awful forums. We loves us some stereotype nicknames.
posted by Mikey-San at 1:43 PM on April 2, 2007


So at $0.99/track they managed for all the DRM structure and now that they get rid of it it's $1.29??
WTF
posted by zouhair at 2:12 PM on April 2, 2007


And anyway buying lossy tracks just SUX
posted by zouhair at 2:12 PM on April 2, 2007


Imagine if for the price of a single three-minute song, you could get an hour of listening to whatever you like. [me]

I can't imagine this catching on. People don't like pay-per-use models, even if they're cheaper in the long run. Because that makes every track a spending decision every time.

My underlying (and possibly incorrect) assumption is that given the choice people will tend to choose to pay for music the same way they choose to pay for cell phone calls. In the UK at least, the most popular choice, especially for young people is to use a prepaid system that you use credit from every time you make a call or send a text. I think the reason the "making a spending decision every time" thing doesn't apply here is that the prices would be so low. If you're paying a dollar to listen to an hour of music, that's less than two cents a minute.

For people who really don't want to make a spending decision every time, there would of course still be subscription models which is what I choose at the moment and might well still choose if pay-per-minute were available. My main point is that "pay a relatively large fee for permanent usage rights" is quite a poor model for most music listening unless you're a collector or like to spend most of your time listening to music you already know very well.
posted by teleskiving at 2:21 PM on April 2, 2007


If you're paying a dollar to listen to an hour of music, that's less than two cents a minute.

$8 or more per day ($3,000 or more per year) for the rest of eternity doesn't sound like much of a deal to me.
posted by Mikey-San at 2:56 PM on April 2, 2007


Actually, anyone using iTunes can convert the file-formats at will via the iTunes preference pane, though I'm not sure how the DRM interacts with that. From my own experience, you can convert MP3s and AAC files to WAV, AIFF, Apple Lossless and back again.

So the whining is unnecessary.


I don't whine. But I'm not going to pay for an AAC just so that I can transcode it to MP3 with all the loss of quality that entails. Nor am I going to buy a new portable device that supports AAC solely for that reason. I still want MP3. And I'll get it, just not from Apple.
posted by grouse at 3:01 PM on April 2, 2007


$8 or more per day ($3,000 or more per year) for the rest of eternity doesn't sound like much of a deal to me.

If you're that kind of heavy user, a subscription would obviously be better than pay-per-minute. I should have said in my first post that I anticipate that both will be popular. 15 bucks subscription * 12 months = 180 bucks a year for subscription. That's less than what you would pay for buying one track a day on iTunes.
posted by teleskiving at 3:54 PM on April 2, 2007


Have you ever, y'know, worked in an office? Walked home to work? Taken the subway? Taken a bus? Do you drive anywhere with the stereo playing? Eight hours of background music isn't "heavy" if you add up all the music lots of people listen to in a given day.

I've been at work for more than eight hours, and guess what, iTunes has been going through playlists for, well, about that long. Then I've got a subway ride home. This sort of thing isn't out of the ordinary for people.

The difference here is that I pay for a record in a store or iTunes once, and the cost per listen decreases with each listen. Not so with subscriptions. It feels different.

The point is that this is why most people prefer to buy music outright. (Don't even bother giving me crap about "oh but you just own a license to listen to a copy of it", 'cause only neckbeards care about that. We're talking about people who haven't heard of Slashdot.)
posted by Mikey-San at 4:01 PM on April 2, 2007


(First half of that was just demonstrating that "heavy" is a bit subjective, not that I don't listen to a decent amount of stuff.)

DRM-less music: Mine forever, even if Apple closes doors or I buy a computer that a subscription service doesn't jive with.

Subscription: Who knows?
posted by Mikey-San at 4:16 PM on April 2, 2007


Subscription services only work psychologically if you consider your subscription downloads as basically nothing more than disposable cached copies of the files on the server. If you attach any value to the downloads themselves then it feels like you're investing in something uncertain. I think the reason that these services haven't really taken off yet is that it still takes an appreciable amount of time to download an album over most internet connections so the idea of those files being disposable is hard to swallow.

Of course, if you're in love with an album you'll want to own it, and for me that's the point when I'll buy a CD. Own-it-forever digital music just seems like an uncomfortable compromise to me: lossy audio, nothing to hold in your hand, and too expensive for sampling - you have to know you're going to really like it before you listen to the whole thing.
posted by teleskiving at 4:37 PM on April 2, 2007


Where by "digital music" I mean of course with the exception of music distributed in a physical form, like CDs.
posted by teleskiving at 4:38 PM on April 2, 2007


EMI iTMS AACs unDRMed!
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:59 PM on April 2, 2007


I don't even like Linux that much, and I want Oggs. What I really want, though, is a lossless format I can transcode to something else. I'd even support it at a fairly high price, perhaps $2/track. My reasoning is that, if I like four songs on an album, I'll just go ahead and buy the damn CD anyway. These days, there are a lot of catchy singles I'd like on their own, after sampling the album online and saying "meh."
posted by adipocere at 5:06 PM on April 2, 2007


What exactly is a lossless format anyways? Don't SACDs and DVD-Audio have even better sound quality than a regular audio CD? If so, isn't a "lossless" format that has the same bits as an audio CD still lossy in comparison to a SACD or DVD-Audio?
posted by gyc at 5:26 PM on April 2, 2007


"Lossless" just means that one could uncompress the track and match the bits (after some alignment) to the same bits on the original media. You don't call it lossy in comparison to a SACD because they were mastered differently. Although one could, in theory, get a lossless copy of a SACD or DVD-Audio track.
posted by adipocere at 7:11 PM on April 2, 2007


SACD and DVD-Audio are stored as DSD and PCM, respectively. DSD has a higher frequency than PCM, but I don't have a six digit audio system or a good enough ear to tell the difference. When you talk about lossless compression you are reconstructing the data so when it is played back it is a bit-by-bit recording. The data is simply arranged to save space (which can be quite dramatic, I think upwards of 30% in a lot of cases for FLAC).

When you get to that level of audio you are definitely talking about true audiophiles or professionals. The multi-channel audio is nice, and if you have a setup I recommend getting Peace Orchestra's "Peace Orchestra", really good. I am also under the impression you need a really good master and a really good sound engineer to take advantage of the higher quality format.

I probably missed some things that someone else can help clean up. I've always assumed that the format used for SACD and the like was used because of the amount of extra space on a CD and the low processing requirements of PCM and the like. FLAC, et al are probably just as good (they are suppose to exact copies), but requires more processing and more processing means more expensive electronics. So it is really more of an economic issue if I understand it correctly.
posted by geoff. at 7:19 PM on April 2, 2007


I'm not going to pay for an AAC just so that I can transcode it to MP3 with all the loss of quality that entails.

You're not going to lose any noticeable amount of quality going from 256Kbps AAC to any supported MP3 bitrate. A 256Kbps AAC is going to be audibly lossless (though, natch, the waveforms won't match up) and higher-quality than the maximum MP3 bitrate, which IIRC is 320Kbps.

Seriously, those of you who want lossless? You're getting it, unless you think that every one and zero on the CD is sacred.
posted by kindall at 8:37 PM on April 2, 2007


I wonder if these DRM-less files are going to be watermarked?

It would make sense from the label's point of view: as you download the file, some unique code that ties the file to your iTunes account gets inaudibly added to the file. If the track then turns up on a file sharing site, they have a way to directly tie it back to you.
posted by freddles at 8:48 PM on April 2, 2007


I love the fact that people took the Ogg remark seriously.
posted by flashboy at 1:31 AM on April 3, 2007


You're not going to lose any noticeable amount of quality going from 256Kbps AAC to any supported MP3 bitrate.

Maybe, but I'll lose no quality if I buy from another provider.
posted by grouse at 3:24 AM on April 3, 2007


The reason to buy from another provider is that you don't have to deal with converting the tracks to MP3, if that's the format you want. Or it's cheaper. Both of which are perfectly good reasons.
posted by kindall at 7:58 AM on April 3, 2007


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