After years of offering music downloads that are incompatible with iPods, BigPond Music has announced the availability of MP3 downloads from today.
Until now, BigPond Music only offered files in Windows Media Audio (WMA) which is a protected music file player.
"Until now many people found it complex to download music legally, and ended up frustrated when they discovered their music was locked onto a single device or was impossible to transfer to the player of their choice," BigPond group managing director Justin Milne said.
Despite MP3 being the first and most popular compressed music format, the four major music companies have been reluctant to release albums in MP3 as it is free of digital rights management and a feared piracy risk.
"We are the only place in Australia to offer legal downloads in MP3 format from all the major labels," Milne said.
The agreements will see BigPond offer music from record labels Sony BMG, Universal Music, Warner Music, and EMI, as well as Australian independents including MGM, Inertia, Liberation, IODA, and AmpHead.
The company is offering MP3s at the highest bit-rate possible — 320Kbps — which means the quality will be closer to that of the CD than services like eMusic, which typically offer music at variable bit-rates around 200Kbps.
The service offers individual tracks for between AU$0.99 and AU$1.69, while albums are available for AU$16.50. BigPond subscribers receive a discount on albums with a price of AU$15.00.
In comparison, Apple iTunes also offers DRM-free albums in its iTunes Plus format (AAC) for AU$16.99. Representatives from Apple were unavailable for comment.