I've worked with MP3 files for so long I've lost track of what else might be out there.
To everybody who couldn't understand how I could possibly say anything negative about iTunes, on the other hand, I'm not giving an inch. I think you're locked up inside a prison -- it may seem like a very comfortable place to you, but from the outside it looks like something entirely different to me. The iPod, iTunes on your computer, and the iTunes store are a closed system, designed to keep you captive. I see AAC and iTunes as . . . not exactly a DRM system, as I said to a couple of people in e-mails, but something nearly that restrictive. (On the other hand, you've made it clear that I've built my own closed system, too.)
I still don't love the EMI-Apple announcement, either. EMI may have seen the light on DRM, but it's treated me like a thief instead of a customer for so long that it will take me a while to get over it. And the new pricing isn't any help. If DRM-free albums are the same price as DRM-protected albums, why are DRM-free single tracks $1.29 while DRM-protected tracks are still 99 cents? I'm not buying the rhetoric about unprotected AAC files being higher quality so they're worth the higher price. If that's true, then album prices should be higher, too.
Does this mean, in fact, that album prices are going to be higher -- that in a couple of months we'll wake up and find new releases are one price and old catalog albums are another price? Probably. That's the way it works in the real world, and from what I've read, Steve Jobs just managed to hold the line on single-tier pricing the last time Apple's deals with the record companies came up for renewal.
If Jobs got DRM-free music and traded a price hike for it, as some of my correspondents have suggested, then he should 'fess up rather than hide behind "it's better quality." And if EMI wanted the price hike because it's trying to offset expected future drops in revenue, then it hasn't stopped calling me a thief, and I still say it's charging me a penalty for being honest.
Or maybe it's a convenience fee? A lot of the comments to the original post couldn't understand why I was so worked up about getting AAC instead of MP3. Couldn't I just reformat them to whatever I wanted? Sure, but I've got my Mr. Cranky Consumer hat on here. My guess is the vast majority of iPod owners can just barely manage to buy a file and get it onto their iPod. Reformat files? Why not just sell me what I want, or better yet, let me download an MP3 file later if I need one -- or download all my AAC files on a different computer? After all, the iTunes store knows what I paid for. (And don't even get me started on fair use, which I think even EMI would like to do away with tomorrow if it could.)
I'm not one of those people who think Apple should license out it's FairPlay DRM (which is proprietary, I'm pretty sure of that). I agree with Jobs that it's not his responsibility be an industry policeman, and I think no DRM at all is better. But I want EMI and the other labels -- and Apple -- to work with me to make it easy to be honest. They way things are now, it's easier to be dishonest.
Bottom line: Am I excited about the opportunity to pay more for music just because it's finally starting to come in an open format the way it should have come all along? No, I am not.