Online music store iTunes has launched a new ‘premium download’ service allowing users to play tracks on any digital music player.
EMI – home of Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue and Lily Allen – is the first record company to make its catalogue available free of Digital Right Management (DRM), the anti-piracy technology which currently restricts the copying of downloaded tracks.
The new downloads will sell for 99p and will be of higher sound quality than the standard 79p versions.
Apple chief executive Steve Jobs and EMI boss Eric Nicoli unveiled the deal at the record company’s London headquarters.
Speculation that the announcement would relate to the Beatles’ back catalogue being made available through iTunes proved groundless.
The 99p tracks will be available from next month and Apple predicts other record labels will follow EMI’s lead.
Users will be able to upgrade existing EMI downloads to the DRM-free version for 20p each.
The standard 79p versions will remain available but EMI said its research showed music fans are prepared to pay extra for higher quality, interoperable tracks.
Currently, a track bought on iTunes can only be played on an iPod unless a user burns it onto a CD.
Mr Jobs said the move was the ‘next big step forward in the digital music revolution.’
He went on: ‘This is a landmark event and the beginning of a major shift taking place this year, resulting in users being able to buy from any music site and play the track on any player.’
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