Has hell frozen over? Have pigs flying outside my window? I must be dreaming, because Steve Jobs and the rest of the Cupertino crew have officially announced that higher quality, DRM-free content will soon available from the iTunes Music Store. They haven’t ditched the DRM effort altogether — all that protected content is still there for purchase — but the entire EMI Music library will be available sans DRM. What’s more, the unprotected tunes will be offered “at higher quality 256 kbps AAC encoding, resulting in audio quality indistinguishable from the original recording.” This is a significant improvement over the 128 kbps AAC encoding we normally get.
Naturally, the Jobsian one wants to get a little cash on the side for doing us this favor. The DRM-free music is $1.29 per track, rather than the regular 99 cents he charges per song. If you have already purchased EMI content through iTunes, you have the option of ponying up the extra 30 cents per song to “upgrade” to the newer, higher quality, DRM-free goodness.
Look for the DRM-free tunes to go live in May.