Back at January’s Macworld Expo—Apple’s last, remember—Apple’s senior VP for worldwide marketing Phil Schiller announced that Apple was finally going to introduce variable pricing in the iTunes music store—something music labels had wanted for years but which Apple had resisted, insisting it’s $0.99-per-track model was key to consumer adoption. Apparently Apple now feels that a handful of consumers have already adopted iTunes—it is the number one music retailer now—so introducing variable pricing won’t inhibit many people from using the service.
Variable pricing was originally supposed to roll out on April 1, but reports in the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere have Apple pushing back the date to April 7—possibly to avoid April Fool’s Day, which is a strong contender for the Internet’s most-celebrated holiday and wacky fake news stories rule the day. Under the new pricing scheme, most music tracks will still cost $0.99, but labels will be able to charge $1.29 for selected tracks—mostly hot new releases—and offer discounts of $0.69 on older library tracks.
Apple is also sticking to its Macworld promise that by the end of the quarter, every track for sale in the iTunes music store will be available in DRM-free format, making for easy sharing and transfer between devices. Apple uses a 256 Kbps AAC format rather than MP3 for DRM-free tracks, but tracks can easily be converted to MP3 for use on devices that can’t handle AAC encoding. The DRM-free promise only applies to music though: movies and videos for sale via iTunes still carry Apple’s FairPlay DRM protection, and there’s been absolutely no motion from movie and television studios about offering film or video content in DRM-free formats.