Variable Pricing To Launch On iTunes April 7, Top Tracks Cost $1.29

A while back, when we found out that Apple would finally be removing digitial rights management (DRM) protections from its tracks, we were clearly pretty stoked. But there's always a catch, and this time it's a price hike on the most popular iTunes downloads -- insiders say the increase to $1.29 will go into effect April 7.

The date for the change-over to variable pricing has not officially been announced, but industry executives say that Apple has been notifying the labels that it would happen on that date.

Some see the increase as another blow to a struggling industry, wondering if consumers will be willing to fork over more than $1 for a single song. But on the ever-present other hand you have the fact that in the new pricing scheme, users will be able to download older songs at .69 cents and the previous standard, .99 cents.

Interestingly, not just brand new tracks will receive the $1.29 price stamp. The cost of a particular song will depend on the artist's popularity. Brand-new tracks from lesser-known artists could receive a lower price while a hugely popular classic track, like Bruce Springsteen's "Born To Run", could go for top dollar. Or top dollar-twenty-nine. It is important to note, though, that most of the 10 million songs in the iTunes catalog are expected to remain at .99 cents.

So you'll have to pay $1.29 for Lady GaGa. But if you're like us, chances are there a lot of artists you listen to that aren't so high on the international popularity chart. And if that means we get to download those songs for .69 cents? DRM-free? Count us in.

Variable Pricing To Launch On iTunes April 7, Top Tracks Cost $1.29