January 6, 2009 Apple today announced a number of changes to their popular iTunes Music Store, with all four major labels on board to offer a substantially increased range of music in the DRM-free iTunes Plus format, access to the store available via the 3G network for iPhone users, and a new three-tier pricing system.

The "big four" major labels and thousands of independants are offering their music in iTunes Plus, Apple's DRM-free, 256-kbps AAC-based format which provides an audio quality far closer to that of a CD than standard iTunes downloads. Customers who already have a library of iTunes purchases have a one-click option to upgrade to iTunes Plus for 30 cents per song, or 30 percent of the cost of an album.

iPhone users can now buy and download music from the previously Wi-Fi-only iTunes Store over their 3G network with no additional fees. Songs downloaded directly to the iPhone will sync to iTunes the next time the iPhone is synced with the computer.

In April this year, iTunes will move to a three-tier pricing system, with songs available for 69 cents, 99 cents or $1.29, depending on the price that the labels charge Apple. We can only hope the major labels don't decide to move their entire catalogs to the new $1.29 price point as soon as the opportunity arises.