The ground just shifted in the mobile entertainment world. EMI, one of the largest music companies has announced that it will now make its digital music content available at higher quality and also DRM free. Apple will be the first company to offer the DRM free music on its iTunes site. To get the DRM Free and higher quality tracks you’ll pay 30% higher per track, ($1.29 vs $.99) but entire albums will come in the new format at the same cost as they are now. $.99 versions will still be available and if you already have an EMI song or two in your collection you can upgrade them for $.30 a track. Here’s an excerpt from the EMI press release:
Eric Nicoli, CEO of EMI Group, said, “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.
DRM schemes have been the bane of many a mobile media users existence as they prevent interoperability between devices and it looked like the big music companies would never release their hold over the market even in the wake of various European government attempts to intervene on behalf of consumers. After Steve Jobs famously through down a gauntlet a short while ago, saying that Apple was ready if the music companies were to let DRM go, many, including myself, were skeptical. But EMI has shifted the ground that entertainment companies walk on with this news. It remains to be seen how this will shake out with the other big companies and with Microsoft, but for now, (actually in May when this kicks in) users who purchase music from the EMI catalog will be able to enjoy it on any device. Although Beatles fans are gearing up for the digital release of the Fab Four’s catalog, it looks as though those selections will be excluded at the moment.