The long and rancorous negotiations between Apple and the major music labels are apparently over and Apple’s iTunes will be able to offer their music DRM-free, but it came at the expense of Apple’s long standing "one price for all" policy:
Apple has cut deals that will finally enable iTunes to offer songs free of copy protection software from the three largest music labels, according to two sources close to the negotiations. In exchange, Apple has agreed to become more flexible on pricing, the sources said.
The three largest labels are Warner Music, Sony BMG and Universal Music Group.
Under the terms of the deal, song prices will be broken down into three categories–older songs from the catalog, midline songs (newer songs that aren’t big hits), and current hits–said one of the sources. Apple has offered songs free of digital rights management protections from EMI for more than a year. But EMI accounts for less than 10 percent of music sold in the U.S.
Apple and the music labels have also apparently come to terms on over-the-air downloads, according to a source. That would allow iPhone owners to download songs to their mobile devices via cell networks and without the aid of Wi-Fi. Apple, which closed the deals last week, could announce the agreements as early as Tuesday at the Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco.
There is some questioning of whether the availability of DRM-free music makes any difference to consumers. While I agree that the average consumer probably doesn’t pay attention to DRM in the normal course of events, they get really cranky when for whatever reason their subscription lapses and all their tunes are unplayable.
From the same source, the rumored pricing for the tiers is $0.79, $0.99 and $1.29 per track. Yes, it would have better if they had gone lower at the low end.
Update: Apple did announce it at MacWorld and the prices are: $0.69, $0.99 and $1.29 per track.
RealNetworks’ Rhapsody music service has joined the ranks of online stores selling DRM-free MP3 music:
RealNetworks on Sunday announced several improvements to its Rhapsody music service, including a new online music store and integration with Verizon’s V Cast mobile phone music service.
Taking a cue from competitors such as Amazon and Napster, Rhapsody’s new Web-based music store sells a catalog of universally compatible (DRM-free) MP3 files from all four major music labels (Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Warner, and EMI), as well as a selection of independents.
The new Rhapsody store represents a departure from the strictly software-based music subscription model on which the company was founded.
Rhapsody’s Web-based MP3 music store offers the majority of its catalog at $.99 cents per song and $9.99 per album. While Rhapsody’s MP3 pricing is competitive with the industry-leading iTunes music store, it’s slightly more expensive than Amazon and considerably more expensive than eMusic.
As a competitive advantage, the new Rhapsody’s store allows users to preview entire songs prior to purchase–a stark contrast to the 30-second song previews shoppers have come to expect.
The more the merrier, I’d say. There’s more by following the link, but also note that there is a kickoff promotion:
Open an account and your first album is on us
Shopping for music online just got easier. The new Rhapsody MP3 Store lets you listen to entire songs before you buy them, provides recommendations, and delivers high-quality MP3s that can be played on your iPod or any other MP3 player.
If you’re one of the first 100,000 to create an account by Independence Day, we’ll automatically apply a $10 credit to your first album purchase. The credit must be used by midnight Pacific time, July 4, 2008 – so sign up and start shopping today. Limit one per household.
Yesterday, Google released the Google Media Server:
In the old days, we used to watch a simple device called a television. Nowadays, all the stuff worth watching and listening to tends to be stored on or accessed through a computer. To help remedy this, we are pleased to release the Google Media Server.
Google Media Server is a Windows application that aims to bridge the gap between Google and your TV. It uses Google Desktop technology such as Desktop gadgets for the administration tool and Google Desktop Search to locate media files. All you need is a PC running Google Desktop and a UPnP-enabled device (e.g. a PlayStation 3).
And then you can play all your PC media files (videos, music, and photos) on your TV as well as the unique features of displaying Picasa Web Albums and playing YouTube videos through your TV.
If you are having a hard time breaking the code, UPnP is the acronym for Universal Plug and Play and Google Media Server running on your PC is technically a UPnP AV MediaServer which can send audio-visual data to "UPnP media render hardware" (the UPnP-enabled device above) which also includes the Xbox 360, HP MediaSmart LCD televisions and various networked media players.
If you have one of the right gadgets you probably already know it, but this all seems rather needlessly complex:
Imagine a world where your computer, cellphone, games console, storage devices, media streamers and other hardware all play nicely together, so that, for example, music, photos and video can reach the television or Hi-Fi no matter where in the home it originates.
That world is one which the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), an industry consortium backed by big name consumer electronics, computer and mobile device manufacturers such as HP, Microsoft, Nokia and Samsung, is aiming to create through support for the UPnP (Universal Plug ‘n’ Play) AV standard. For end consumers this means that any ‘DLNA certified’ device should, in theory, be able to share or access media on the same home network — a message that DLNA members have largely failed to communicate, which is especially sad considering that many people already own a number of compliant devices …
Someday, I suppose it will all work, but unless you have a Xbox 360 or a PS3 you’ll have to do your homework to get it all working.