iTunes Plus Launches Today

Arik Hesseldahl

And so begin the days of DRM-free music on iTunes. Here’s a refresher for those who missed the details when this was first announced: Music from EMI’s catalog – still sans The Beatles – is now available for download at 256 KBPS AAC encoding without any DRM restrictions for $1.29 per song. The usual DRM-protected 128-kbps songs will continue to be available for 99 cents. A few artists named include Coldplay, The Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra and John Coltrane (yay!!!) plus a lot of Paul McCartney’s solo material.

Plus you get to upgrade your current iTunes catalog from for 30 cents a song, or about three bucks an album. Not a bad deal all the way around. Now if only a few more labels would sign on. Edgar Bronfman, yes, I’m looking at you.

Meanwhile, another interesting new section launched on iTunes today: iTunes U. Free stuff from colleges and universities like lectures, lab demos, tours, sports highlights. Every now and then I’ll see an ad in a magazine advertising a series of recorded lectures by leading academics on the classics, ancient history and so on, and I’m occasionally tempted to get one, then think better of it, usually because they cost about $25 a throw for a CD with a single lecture – the idea is that you buy a series of 10 or 12 on a single topic. Looks like I’ll be able to get something similar for free, and hear lecturers from Stanford, Berkeley, Duke and MIT.

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