Another Apple announcement: DRM-free iTunes…all of ‘em. Or rather, 80% of their library now 100% in a few months. But the devil’s in the details:

  1. Tiered pricing. If a song is new and/or popular, Apple pushes the price up to $1.29 for the single.Old songs are 69 cents. The remaining lot are 99 cents still. Seems like albums are still $9.99.
  2. Not all songs are DRM-free yet. I just purchased a song from iTunes a few days ago, after Apple’s announcement of their going DRM-free. The song wasn’t available elsewhere online, at least not from the DRM-free stores I frequent (AmazonMP3 and Lala). It was 99 cents, 128 kbps and laced with FairPlay DRM. Wonderful, just wonderful.
  3. Got DRMed songs in your library? Double the bitrate and unlock the DRM, all for only 30 cents per song. What, you say? nearly one-third the price I paid for the song itself? Yep, welcome to Apple.
In all fairness, the record labels may be to blame for most of this foolishness. They wanted DRM in the first place, tiered pricing more recently. Some of them are more recalcitrant than others, hence the two million songs that are still unfit for audiophile consumption. They’re also afraid of what is now the largest music sore in the U.S., online or offline. Still, unless you absolutely positively can’t find a song in DRM-free format elsewhere, iTunes should probably be near the bottom of your short list for music acquisition, even with ths improvement of terms. Everyone else offers their DRM-free tracks as MP3s which, while technically lower-quality, are in reality near-indistinguishable from Apple’s tracks. Plus, they may well be cheaper.
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