Apple slashes iTunes' DRM-free prices

All tracks, copy-protected and not, are now 99 cents

Apple Inc. today cut prices of copy-protection-free music by 23% to 99 cents, matching the standard for iTunes tracks that come with restrictions and narrowing the gap between its prices and those of rivals such as Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

All tunes stripped of digital rights management (DRM) limitations have been reduced from $1.29 to $.99, said Apple. The iTunes catalog of DRM-free music has also been expanded and now numbers more than 2 million tracks.

ITunes Plus, the name Apple gave music in MP3 format that can be copied freely between devices and computers, debuted last May, three months after CEO Steve Jobs issued an open letter asking the major recording labels to abandon digital copy protection.

The bulk of the songs without copy protection are from EMI Group PLC, the only major recording company with which Apple has cut a deal, and from independent labels. The inventory boost largely came from the addition of tracks from the independents, Apple said.

"ITunes Plus has been incredibly popular with our customers, and now we're making it available at an even more affordable price," said Eddy Cue, who heads iTunes, in a statement. His remarks echoed Jobs' comments to The Wall Street Journal, which yesterday quoted the CEO as saying that "[iTunes Plus has] been very popular with our customers, and we're making it even more affordable."

Apple's price drop follows the launch of's all DRM-free online music store three weeks ago. Amazon MP3, which is in beta testing, prices tracks at 89 to 99 cents apiece. At the same time, Wal-Mart began selling unprotected tunes from Universal Music Group's catalog for 94 cents.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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