We’ve had a couple of days to digest the big announcement from Apple at Macworld about the significant changes to iTunes, starting in April.

First, there were three tiers of pricing. Older tracks will be discounted, selling for 69 cents. Newer and more popular tracks will go for either 99 cents or $1.29. This is something the record labels have been screaming for. They’ve wanted variable pricing.

But the second announcement is the big one: no more digital locks on the songs.
If you’ve ever tried to share a song you bought from iTunes with a friend, you’ll know you can’t. Everything is locked to you, your computer and your device. But with no digital rights management or DRM, you can do whatever you want with a music file: Move it from device to device, burn copies and share it with friends.

And it wasn’t Apple that wanted to keep DRM in place. Steve Jobs was calling for an end to digital locks as far back as February 2007. It took this long for all the labels to agree to drop the copy protection.

But what about all the songs you’ve already purchased from iTunes? I myself have hundreds. The good news is that we’ll be able to upgrade them to DRM-free versions — but for 30 cents a song. That’s still gonna hurt, but at least you can jailbreak the songs you want.

And that’s still not all. When DRM disappears in April, any company can now make a music player that will work with iTunes. Up until now, the only portable players that worked with iTunes were all the flavours of iPod. Not anymore.

Question: What does this means for the record labels now that DRM is effectively dead? They won’t be able to control how consumers buy and listen to and share music.

Question: Will people respond to the variable pricing strategy? Let’s face it: the only people this will affect will be those who already pay for music. And soon, there will be more DRM-free music out there.

Question: Will this erode Apple’s market share in the portable music player market? The iPod ipod is still the 800 pound gorilla, but there will definitely be competition ... or does Apple have other plans to compensate?

Question: What will this do to iTunes competitors like amazon.com and rhapsody that already sell DRM-free music?

Interesting times...

The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on stations across Canada. Read more at ongoinghistory.com and exploremusic.com

Latest From ...