Apple introduces iTunes Plus: High-quality DRM-free music is now available!

When Apple announced the deal with EMI that would allow them to sell EMI’s catalog with no DRM restrictions, and at a higher quality, the timetable for making these tracks available was May, 2007. Well, they made it with a full day to spare. With a new version of iTunes (7.2) yesterday, and the new content available today, “iTunes Plus” is now available.

First thing you’ll notice is that nothing looks any different. Apple did a good job (maybe too good) of not confusing the customer with a blizzard of choices. For example, when you look at a Paul McCartney album it still shows the older $0.99 price per track. If you attempt to order it, however, iTunes will prompt you that a higher-quality DRM-free version is available for $1.29, and do you want to switch to getting that format? If you do, then you will always get the higher quality when available. You can switch back to getting the lower quality using your store account settings.

If you don’t want to wait to order a track to get the option, go to the Store menu and choose View My Account. The top option on the page will let you either Enable iTunes Plus. This will allow you to always see the high-quality version if available.

For me, the option to go iTunes Plus was especially easy, since I buy albums and the price for the new high-quality DRM-free albums has not changed! Most iTunes albums are $9.99, and they remain so even if they are available in the higher quality. Only the price of singles increased.

One more thing, all of EMI’s music videos are going to be DRM free as well, and their ptice will not change. They remain at $1.99.

This is a great thing, and one I’ve looked forward too. The ball is rolling, and I expect Apple to begin adding more iTunes Plus content. It may be a while before the other three major record labels allow it, but I see Indie labels coming on board very quickly. Steve Job says they hope to have half of their content in iTunes Plus format by the end of the year.