EMI Spreads DRM-Free Catalog, Passalong Grabs Second Dibs

  • Save

EMI is now spreading its DRM-free catalog, an expected move following a limited iTunes exclusive.

Leading the second wave is Nashville-based digital music provider Passalong Networks, though others are undoubtedly primed to follow.  The Apple launch, triggered at the tail end of last month, layered the EMI catalog within a premium, iTunes Plus offering.  The concept involves higher-quality tracks for an elevated price, though Apple opted to position the downloads in the less-common AAC format, the underpinning for the larger iTunes Store.  Ironically, that spells compatibility problems with a broad number of portable music players, though Passalong is pushing the more ubiquitous MP3.  The company powers a music ecommerce platform that is tapped by a number of partners, including Trans World Entertainment.  “We are excited to offer EMI Music’s catalog to our customers as higher quality, DRM-free MP3s,” said Jim Litwak, president and chief operating officer at Trans World.

Aside from the format differences, other aspects resemble the iTunes play.  The DRM-free tracks will be positioned in a higher-quality, 320 kbps (kilobits per second) fidelity, a level that trumps typical encoding rates of 128-192 kbps.  “PassAlong Networks is yet another example of a forward-thinking company that puts consumers first,” said Eric Nicoli, chief executive of EMI Group. “We believe offering PassAlong’s large customer base the opportunity to buy recordings from EMI Music’s prestigious roster of artists, in higher quality and in a format that will allow them to play their purchases on the device or platform of their choice will boost sales of digital music overall.”   The progressive philosophy casts Nicoli as a tech-friendly executive, though it remains unclear if and when other majors will follow suit.  Meanwhile, pricing specifics were not revealed, though elevated tags are expected across-the-board  based on higher wholesale costs.