There had been rumors at the end of last year that, some time this year, EMI would allow non-DRM versions of its music to be sold online, so I wasn’t completely shocked by the recent announcement. But I was still surprised, and surprised it happened so early. Nice to see one record company behaving sanely. (Or at least behaving in the way I’d like them to; the jury is certainly still out on whether or not it will help their business goals.)

The details are a little interesting: bundling no DRM with a higher quality and a higher price point. The higher price point is obvious enough, and I’m glad it’s only for singles instead of albums; I’m curious how the higher quality came to be, though. Was Apple arguing for a single price point, EMI wanted a higher one, and Apple relented if they’d raise the quality? Does somebody have an interest in muddying the experiment, to make it harder to tell the effects of no DRM alone? Had Apple been wanting to raise prices all along, and this was a way they could do it without losing face? Could it be some strange way to make it easier to track illegal copies of the non-DRM music purchased in this manner? (That would really be stretching it.) Did somebody just decide that higher bit rates are good, and this is where they’d introduce it? I’m betting that this linkage is a face-saving gesture somehow, I just can’t figure out the details.

I would say that this makes me want to go out and buy more EMI music, but it really doesn’t. For one thing, I buy music based on what I want to listen to rather than the publisher, and for another thing, my preferred medium of purchase remains CDs. This will have an effect on my purchasing habits if/when indy publishers are allowed to sell non-DRM music through iTunes, however: it occasionally happens that I learn about a band through Next Big Hit and am unable to purchase their music on a CD. Until now, that’s meant that I won’t purchase their music at all (though I might give in and sign up for one of these MP3 subscription services at some point), but I would be willing to purchase their music on iTunes under the new rules. Who knows, maybe at some point I’ll give up on my “only buy albums” philosophy, and start buying individual tracks as well.

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