For a while, EMI has been the most progressive of the major record labels, and it had been rumored
that the company would start selling DRM-free digital tracks. Today, the company trotted out anti-DRMista Steve Jobs to announce that it would begin selling its digital catalog without DRM
through the iTunes Music Store. EMI's songs will be available in the AAC format, and will be encoded at 256kbps, twice the bitrate of standard songs sold through iTMS. They'll also carry a higher price: $1.29 per track in the US, compared to 99 cents for versions encumbered with DRM. While that price difference will certainly elicit some complaints, it does reflect that DRM-free tracks are more valuable than those with pointless and frustrating copy protection. But what's a little more interesting about the higher price is that Steve Jobs has relented from the $1 per song price point, which he's steadfastly maintained
despite continual pressure from record labels to raise prices
. While we dismissed Jobs' earlier anti-DRM rant as little more than a PR stunt
, it appears that now he's using a carrot-and-stick approach with the record labels: drop the DRM, offer consumers a more valuable product, and he'll charge consumers a higher price -- and presumably, pay a higher wholesale one as well. While that's simple and straightforward for most of us, it may still be a hard sell to the music industry, who puts a lot of effort into trying to get consumers to pay more for less.