EMI to offer digital downloads free of DRM

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EMI, the third largest of the big four major music labels, announced today that it will make its full catalog available as downloads free of DRM. Apple’s iTunes store will offer the DRM-less songs in May, with other sites to follow soon after. The iTunes store will sell songs from EMI artists in the AAC format encoded at 256 bits rather than the typical 128 bits.

Consumers, however, will have to pay a premium for the better audio quality and lack of DRM. Apple will sell these higher-quality songs for $1.29 versus the typical $.99 songs cost on the iTunes site. The price for entire albums, though, will not be affected. Additionally, consumers who have already downloaded DRM encumbered, 128-bit songs by EMI artists can upgrade to higher-quality, DRM-less tracks for $.30 each.

EMI has a sizable roster of artists, including David Bowie, Gorillaz, the Rolling Stones, and Sigur Ros, and while there were rumors that today’s press conference would include an announcement about the Beatles’s catalog finally being available online, no such deal has yet been made.

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