Digital Rights Management (DRM) is an access control technology designed to limit the functionality of digital media. By functionality, I mean the ability of a consumer to copy songs or move them to multiple computers. Most of the music inventory that can be downloaded from iTunes
to date has DRM embedded into it. It's frustrating, and it drives music lovers from around the world to bypass paying for their music all together just so they can have full access to their music, a.k.a. illegal downloading.
At the Macworld Expo trade show today (Tuesday 1/6), Phil Schiller, Apple's Senior Vice President, gave the first keynote delivered at Macworld since 1997 that was not given by Steve Jobs. He announced that iTunes will be offering songs in three pricing tiers beginning in April: $0.69, $0.99, and $1.29. Which price you get all depends on the recording company the song came from.
The pricing tier is a result of a flexibility offering Apple
gave record labels to convince them to agree to sell all of their songs DRM free. Apple began offering 8 million of their 10 million songs today DRM free, and plan to have the other 2 million available by the end of the quarter.
I understand the plight of many music lovers. Today's music is saturated and often bland. Many do not want to pay $10-20 dollars for a full album from the music store, only to get 1 or 2 quality tracks. Most of us have figured out the wonders of paying a dollar or two to download the tracks we want from iTunes instantly, and bypassing the crap. But DRM is infuriating, and although I understand why it has been implemented in the past, it can drive a person to look elsewhere for their music. By dropping prices on some songs and offering everything DRM free, Apple may be able to coax some of the illegal music downloader's back into a legit music lifestyle, and cashing in on the response.