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Apple poised to expand, drop price of iTunes Plus service

post #1 of 37
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Apple Inc. as early as this week will expand its iTunes Plus digital download store and reduce the price of the higher-quality, DRM-free music tracks offered through the service by nearly 25 percent, according to a published report.

Citing what we believe to be a very reliable source, ArsTechnica reports that iTunes Plus will expand its reach in the near-term to umbrella certain indie music labels on iTunes, but not all. What's more, however, Apple reportedly plans to drop the price of all iTunes Plus tracks at approximately the same time.

Presently, Apple sells the majority of its music tracks on iTunes for 99 cents, which come encoded at 128kbps AAC and wrapped in digital rights management (DRM) copy-protection measures that limit their use to five computers and seven burnt CDs. On the other hand, $1.29 iTunes Plus tracks are encoded in the higher quality 256kbps AAC and are not held down by any such restrictions.

"Currently, each track is $1.29 while 'normal' DRMed tracks are 99 cents apiece," Ars said. "That discrepancy will be no longer, as Apple will begin pricing all of its iTunes Plus songs at 99 cents apiece (DRMed tracks will also remain at 99 cents)."

The report goes on to speculate that the move on Apple's part is in response to the recent launch of Amazon.com's MP3 Store, which sells some 2 million songs from record label Universal as unprotected MP3 tracks for anywhere between 89 cents and 99 cents.

Apple's iTunes Plus service is currently comprised of unprotected songs belonging to another major record label, EMI. While the iPod maker has been actively courting other major labels to join its unrestricted service, the company has yet to make any successive announcements since launching iTunes Plus back in May.

Evidence of an iTunes Plus expansion and the associated price drops could surface as early as Wednesday, Ars said.

Update: Apple chief executive Steve Jobs has confirmed the price drop of iTunes Plus tracks in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

"It's been very popular with our customers, and we're making it even more affordable," he said.

iTunes Plus songs will reflect the reduced price later today or tomorrow.

Update 2: According to an Apple spokesperson speaking to Reuters, Apple will be "adding over 2 million tracks from independent labels in addition to EMI's digital catalog."
post #2 of 37
might we expect the non-DRM iTunes library to be upgraded to 256kbps?
post #3 of 37
I guess this signals the end of DRM on iTunes very soon.
Who would buy a DRM'ed song if the unrestricted version is the same price?
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post #4 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank777 View Post

I guess this signals the end of DRM on iTunes very soon.
Who would buy a DRM'ed song if the unrestricted version is the same price?

Or maybe the DRM'ed song drops down to 79 cents.
post #5 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by iPhone ergo sum View Post

might we expect the non-DRM iTunes library to be upgraded to 256kbps?

Given the reaction of the Apple 'faithful' (as seen in the iPhone price drop whine-a-thon), I'd say Apple would be crazy to offer any upgrade of quality.
That would require that they allow free re-download to everyone who had purchased songs.
A billion re-downloads, with resulting capacity issues, not to mention dev efforts to institute a 'upgrade my previous purchase' feature.
They'd be justified in charging, but they'd then get sued.
post #6 of 37
What do you guys think? I feel like I've been burned by Apple's sudden drop in price of songs affecting the resale value of the 6 songs I bought at $1.29. I should sue them for $1.74 of lost value and, what, $1Billion in punitive?


Jim
post #7 of 37
I was wondering about this - I was checking out some Indie Christian tracks and saw they were 0.99 but iTunes Plus. There was also some variable album pricing it looked like, but I didn't write the details down...

I only buy iTunes Plus now, so I'm glad there's more available (and double-glad the pricing's returning to normal). I'm not going to complain about my $20 or so upgrade payment though - to me it is worth it to encourage Apple (and the labels) in a DRM-free direction.
post #8 of 37
Macuser.co.uk is reporting that some tracks on the UK store are already selling for 79p for iTunes Plus. This is the same price we pay for non iTunes Plus. It seems it's already happening this side of the Atlantic.
post #9 of 37
What will happen eventually is, those labels that wish to sell DRM-free tracks will only be available as iTunes Plus. 256 kbps, 99c. The average user won't notice any difference except the little Plus. If a track is available as iTunes Plus, it'll only be available that way.

Those that don't go with this scheme will be Fair Play DRM-ed, 99c.

To those who will now complain about paying $1.29 so far:

1. If you didn't think it was worth $1.29, you shouldn't have bought it.
2. The higher price was almost certainly necessary to get labels to sell DRM-free music on iTunes at all. Now that Steve can show them some numbers and point to Amazon's store, they're seeing that a) DRM is losing much of its momentum b) Amazon's price is lower, and c) they'll still make their money.
post #10 of 37
I wonder what the record companies are thinking about this...
post #11 of 37
Definitely a continued step in the right direction by Apple. I too would like to see the DRM'd tracks take a corresponding drop in price to keep the offset between DRM and non-DRM tracks (instead of them being the same). Otherwise, Apple would simply (temporarily?) cease to offer the DRM version while an identically priced non-DRM version existed.

Regardless, I have bought quite a few iTunes Plus tracks (at 1.29) and I will continue to do so at whatever the new price becomes, because I value the convenience of the iTunes store and the easy tie-in to my portable music device of choice (take a guess).

Whichever way this goes down, there is sure to be a bitchfest from people who think the price drop screws prior purchasers at the higher prices, and there will be another string of unending junk lawsuits.

Imagine if Wal-Mart were sued each time some more numbers fell off those cute little happy face signs in the stores. Commerce would grind to a halt.

Price drops happen. Get over it. (mostly directed at the iPhone price drop crybabies, and the inevitable iTunes Plus price drop crybabies to follow)

props to heyjp for the sense of humor ;-)
post #12 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by iPhone ergo sum View Post

might we expect the non-DRM iTunes library to be upgraded to 256kbps?

I thought it already was; 256kbps AAC.
post #13 of 37
If iTunes goes totally DRM-free, what happens to the same tracks we've all bought? Will Apple strip the code from the protected AAC audio files? If pricing is the same as when purchased and the product is identical then this would be entirely appropriate. Could it even become a (legal?) obligation for Apple if it ends up being disputed (early days for this thought but, hey, thinking ahead).
post #14 of 37
Did you see Jobs' open letter where he announced that Apple would be giving a 15 cent store credit to anyone who purchased a $1.29 song that is now priced at $.99?
post #15 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wings View Post

Did you see Jobs' open letter where he announced that Apple would be giving a 15 cent store credit to anyone who purchased a $1.29 song that is now priced at $.99?

Whatchoo talkin' about Willis? (for those who are over 35-40 or so)
post #16 of 37
....



Dammit....


and I JUST bought a buncha Bowie, for $1.29 a pop....


I really should sue


post #17 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by iDave View Post

I thought it already was; 256kbps AAC.

iTunes DRM'd tracks (US$0.99) are still at 128k AAC. iTunes Plus non-DRM'd tracks (currently US$1.29) are at 256k AAC. *edit: at least as of the time of this writing. According to news, it looks like all Plus tracks change pricing in the next day or two.

Regarding pricing however, what the article overlooks is that many complete albums in iTunes Plus are the same price as the DRM'd versions (US$9.99), so there's already a price benefit for non-DRM'd tracks if one buys complete albums.

I feel Apple is going to have to be very careful to closely assess all the different pricing schemes to avoid creating more problems, or they should just simply succeed in ridding the store of DRM altogether and just have a simple uniform pricing for 256k or better non-DRM tracks across the board.

As long as the new iTunes Plus track by track pricing is introduced by the time of the Led Zeppelin catalog release, I'll be happy. I want the freedom to pick and choose tracks spanning their career instead of "Album Only" like many tracks currently on iTMS. Believe it or not, being over 40, I still don't own a single Zeppelin album (vinyl or CD) so I am looking forward to track by track purchases.
post #18 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by iDave View Post

I thought it already was; 256kbps AAC.

sorry, i meant the normal DRM'd 192kbps library.
post #19 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by iPhone ergo sum View Post

sorry, i meant the normal DRM'd 192kbps library.

Normal existing DRM'd tracks are currently at 128k AAC. And I would agree with others, I don't see Apple raising the bit rate of the DRM'd tracks at the same time they're dropping the per-track price of the non-DRM versions.

I see Apple simply finally convincing the labels to allow 256k AAC non-DRM across the entire store, and just drop the old DRM tracks entirely.

Not sure about the issue of people wanting re-downloads at the higher quality, at least when it comes to Apple network capacity. When iTunes Plus first came out, they had the offer to upgrade any purchased 128k AAC tracks in your library to the new 256k non-DRM'd versions, so they were already handling a likely substantial number of re-downloads (albeit at US$0.30 per track upgrade fee). Don't know if they could sustain essentially free re-downloads at the new higher bit rate across the board, but I'm constantly surprised at what Apple is able to pull off. They certainly have the ability to do so if they wanted to (and the labels allowed).
post #20 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by omahajim View Post

Whatchoo talkin' about Willis? (for those who are over 35-40 or so)

Just turned 31 and I recognize that well. I loved that show!!
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post #21 of 37
Hey a class action lawsuit for dropping the price so soon?
post #22 of 37
this is unrelated but i would really like some real hd content, even if it is only in america.
post #23 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by aplnub View Post

Just turned 31 and I recognize that well. I loved that show!!

if you love that show and are familier with Gary Coleman (whatcha talkin about willis?) theres this hilarious musical called avenue q and hes one of the main characters (not actually gary coleman, but the character is gary coleman)

I saw it a few weeks ago and its abesolutely hilarious! It won the tony for best musical

its called avenue Q, go check it out!
post #24 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by omahajim View Post

Normal existing DRM'd tracks are currently at 128k AAC. And I would agree with others, I don't see Apple raising the bit rate of the DRM'd tracks at the same time they're dropping the per-track price of the non-DRM versions.

I see Apple simply finally convincing the labels to allow 256k AAC non-DRM across the entire store, and just drop the old DRM tracks entirely.

Not sure about the issue of people wanting re-downloads at the higher quality, at least when it comes to Apple network capacity. When iTunes Plus first came out, they had the offer to upgrade any purchased 128k AAC tracks in your library to the new 256k non-DRM'd versions, so they were already handling a likely substantial number of re-downloads (albeit at US$0.30 per track upgrade fee). Don't know if they could sustain essentially free re-downloads at the new higher bit rate across the board, but I'm constantly surprised at what Apple is able to pull off. They certainly have the ability to do so if they wanted to (and the labels allowed).

I think that everyone is forgetting here that not all labels allow non-DRM content, even on Amazon. Apple can't get rid of DRM altogether just yet. What they can do is remove the price distinction, which they have, in order to inspire more labels to follow EMI's lead. They probably could up the bitrate on all tracks to 256k, but I'm not sure they'll do that just yet.

My question is what will happen to the "upgrade my library" option, now that iTunes plus tracks are the same price as previous DRM tracks? Should Apple still charge a premium to remove DRM from those tracks (and give higher-quality sound, albeit higher quality that almost no one will be able to notice?) Or will they continue to charge to remove that DRM?
post #25 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by heyjp View Post

What do you guys think? I feel like I've been burned by Apple's sudden drop in price of songs affecting the resale value of the 6 songs I bought at $1.29. I should sue them for $1.74 of lost value and, what, $1Billion in punitive?


Jim

That's a great idea Jim!

How original of you!

post #26 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by mazzy View Post

Hey a class action lawsuit for dropping the price so soon?

That's a great idea!

No one's made that joke before.

post #27 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrjoec123 View Post

....
My question is what will happen to the "upgrade my library" option, now that iTunes plus tracks are the same price as previous DRM tracks? Should Apple still charge a premium to remove DRM from those tracks (and give higher-quality sound, albeit higher quality that almost no one will be able to notice?) Or will they continue to charge to remove that DRM?

I was wondering the same thing; I have several songs that I looked into yesterday that were available as a "Plus" track-I didn't purchase them on account of this (now confirmed) rumour. I wonder if I will be re-charged .99 cents to bump up the sound bit rate?
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post #28 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by iPhone ergo sum View Post

might we expect the non-DRM iTunes library to be upgraded to 256kbps?

Exactly what I was wondering.

There is now no excuse not to.
post #29 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by omahajim View Post

Normal existing DRM'd tracks are currently at 128k AAC. And I would agree with others, I don't see Apple raising the bit rate of the DRM'd tracks at the same time they're dropping the per-track price of the non-DRM versions.

I see Apple simply finally convincing the labels to allow 256k AAC non-DRM across the entire store, and just drop the old DRM tracks entirely.

Not sure about the issue of people wanting re-downloads at the higher quality, at least when it comes to Apple network capacity. When iTunes Plus first came out, they had the offer to upgrade any purchased 128k AAC tracks in your library to the new 256k non-DRM'd versions, so they were already handling a likely substantial number of re-downloads (albeit at US$0.30 per track upgrade fee). Don't know if they could sustain essentially free re-downloads at the new higher bit rate across the board, but I'm constantly surprised at what Apple is able to pull off. They certainly have the ability to do so if they wanted to (and the labels allowed).

I can't agree with that. There is now no excuse to not raise the quality.

Before, it could be said that higher transmission costs for Apple at the higher 256 rate were one of the reasons for charging more, as well as the fact that the songs had no DRM.

But, now that neither of those are a reason, DRM'd tracks should also get the treatment. If they did, I might actually start to buy songs there. 128 is worthless to me.
post #30 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrjoec123 View Post

My question is what will happen to the "upgrade my library" option, now that iTunes plus tracks are the same price as previous DRM tracks? Should Apple still charge a premium to remove DRM from those tracks (and give higher-quality sound, albeit higher quality that almost no one will be able to notice?) Or will they continue to charge to remove that DRM?

The quality difference is very noticable, if you have some decent equipment to listen with.
post #31 of 37
What's interesting here, and I hope it's a GOOD sign, is that this is the first time that Apple has felt compelled by competitors to lower their pricing as a direct response.

Until now, at least with iTunes, Apple has pulled the rest of the industry to lower prices.

Competition is grand.
post #32 of 37
Does this apply to other countries besides the U.S. ? So far, all tracks I searched for show up as $1.39 on the Canadian iTunes store.
post #33 of 37
So is this going to start applying to all songs? I see a few that are 99ยข but hardly any. For a buck a pop, it's going to be pretty hard to pull me over to amazon's clunky interface and slightly lower quality songs (have heard of ones as low as 160kbs average).

And am I pissed about me buying 50 iTunes plus tracks, a little but this was what I wanted the end result to be so I sort of took the bullet for myself and others by encouraging higher quality DRM free music.
post #34 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eduardo View Post

I was wondering the same thing; I have several songs that I looked into yesterday that were available as a "Plus" track-I didn't purchase them on account of this (now confirmed) rumour. I wonder if I will be re-charged .99 cents to bump up the sound bit rate?

I am very curious to see what they do. I've got 232 songs that can be upgraded, and currently it would cost me $53.89

I would think that they would still charge *something* because you've got to download everything all over again from apple, at a *higher* bitrate.

Maybe they could offer to simply remove the DRM for free, or pay something like 10 cents a song to also download the higher quality version. I just don't want to pay 30 cents a song to upgrade my library. And if more songs go DRM free, I'm going to have even more songs to upgrade.
post #35 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Apple Inc. as early as this week will expand its iTunes Plus digital download store and reduce the price of the higher-quality, DRM-free music tracks offered through the service by nearly 25 percent, according to a published report.

$1.25 to $0.99 is approximately 20%. Not 25%. Brush up on your math, Kasper.
post #36 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by tonton View Post

$1.25 to $0.99 is approximately 20%. Not 25%. Brush up on your math, Kasper.

Shame, shame. The price was $1.29. Not $1.25.
post #37 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

Shame, shame. The price was $1.29. Not $1.25.



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