EMI announced today that they will make their catalogue available in a higher bitrate and free of DRM from May.
The new ‘premium’ versions will be available first via iTunes and will be encoded as 256kbps AAC files. They’ll be a little more expensive than the standard files.
This is rather good news. I very rarely purchase tracks from iTunes as the bitrate is low (128kbps) and the DRM would prevent me from using the track in a mix or any other form of lossless editing. The fact that it’s so easy to find higher quality downloads from mp3blogs or elsewhere, and for free, makes a mockery of the tinny legal downloads. And when I *must* use an iPod to listen to AAC as opposed to the industry standard mp3, it’s even sillier to make a purchase from iTMS.
Sites such as djdownload have made near lossless (320kbps), DRM-free files available for a long time and I’ve given them quite a bit of business as a result.
The first stirrings that something like this would happen was when Apple head honcho, Steve Jobs, wrote a piece challenging the big labels to remove the demand for DRM. It looks like EMI at least were listening.
What next? iTMS should offer a choice of bitrates and formats. There might be some tracks that I don’t mind getting in ultra-compressed form but it would be great to be able to purchase, at a higher price ‘natch, a lossless version of a track that one wanted to burn to a CD or listen to on a superb music system.
Little by little, I guess.