As the One last thing at PhilNote, three changes to the iTunes Store were announced before Tony Bennett slide out from the back to sing Macworld goodbye. These changes were not surprising as news leaked out days days before Macworld of deals that were agreed with the four major music labels.
Almost two years after Steve Jobs posted his “Thoughts on Music”:http://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughtsonmusic/ where he discussed about DRM and the iTunes, Apple finally announced the removal of Digital Rights Management (DRM) from all the music available in iTunes, starting with 8 million songs immediately and the remaining 2 million tunes by April 2009.
bq. When Apple approached these companies to license their music to distribute legally over the Internet, they were extremely cautious and required Apple to protect their music from being illegally copied. The solution was to create a DRM system, which envelopes each song purchased from the iTunes store in special and secret software so that it cannot be played on unauthorized devices.
What prevented Apple from sealing the deal earlier, like Amazon did in September 2007, was Apple’s reluctance to allow variable pricing for the music as the labels will prefer to mark-up prices for new hits.
Along with removing DRM from all tunes, there will be three tiered pricing of all tunes. Although not specified by Apple, most speculated that the pricing will be as follows: 69 cents for back-catalogs, 99 cents for standard songs and US$1.29 for new or popular releases. This tiered pricing structure will begin from April.
Those tunes that are DRM-free, will be available with higher-quality 256 kbps AAC encoding that is comparable to what Amazon is offering. For existing tunes, you can update them to the DRM-free format via iTunes for just 30 cents per song or 30 percent of the album price.
However, with the current setup of iTunes, Apple doesn’t allow you to upgrade “selectively”:http://www.macworld.com/article/137964/2009/01/itunesplus.html – its either you upgrade ALL of your old tunes or not, which can be an expensive affair at 30 cents per tune.
Lastly, for iPhone users, they can purchase the music over the air via Edge or 3G network, in addition to WIFI.
With iTunes going DRM-free by April, will it mean Apple fans in Singapore hoping to access the world’s biggest online music store will get their chance? Though there are music stores available (like “SoundBuzz”:http://www.soundbuzz.com.sg, Nokia Music store), they have almost always tagged their music with Windows Media DRM, even their websites don’t welcome Mac users. Should Apple launches iTunes Music store in Singapore, I won’t be surprised should it become the main source for legal online music within the shortest time.