EMI Deal Gets Apple Closer to Cloud Music Launch

| News

Record label EMI has apparently just struck a deal for Apple’s rumored cloud-based music storage service, and Sony Music Group and Universal Music Group are said to be close to signing deals, too, according to CNET. Apple is expected to launch its online music storage and streaming service once it has all of the major labels lined up.

iTunes Cloud Music DealsEMI on board for Apple’s cloud music deal

Word that Apple had been signing licensing deals with the record labels surfaced in March with a report that Warner Music had already come on board. A report in April claimed EMI had signed a deal, too, although today’s news seems to contradict that news.

Apple’s online music service is expected to include cloud-based music storage and streaming playback support, support for downloading music to multiple devices, and higher audio quality support compared to competing online music storage services.

Apple’s efforts to get the blessing of the major labels before launching its music locker service has left the Mac, iPhone and iPad maker behind Amazon and Google. Both companies have already launched their own online music storage products, but without record label deals, and with limited support for Apple’s devices.

The missing deals with Amazon and Google has record label executives hot under the collar, and even had one insider saying “People are pissed.” Since Apple is expected to charge for its online music locker service, the deals it has with record labels presumably means they get a cut of the revenue — something they aren’t getting from Amazon and Google.

Apple is generally expected to make an announcement about the music locker service during its annual World Wide Developer Conference in June.

So far, Apple hasn’t offered any comments on the music locker service, or the rumors of record label deals.

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This is one of those funny things.

Flashback to 2001.  Apple, after trying to jump too far ahead with Digital Video (iMac DV), reset it’s sights on music.  iTunes allowed people to rip music that they already own from their CDs and play them on their computers or burn new CDs with their favorite music.  Complete with an entertaining ad campaign, “Rip, Mix, Burn,” Apple stood up to the music companies and said that this behavior was perfectly fine.

Move a couple of years ahead to 2003.  Apple managed to sign a deal with all of the major music companies to allow Mac users to buy music via their computers.  Apple ended up making a bunch of money on the iTunes Store (the iTunes Store is Apple’s low-margin/high-volume business.  They don’t make much on each sale but they make a lot of sales.)  And while Apple became a powerhouse in on-line music retail, Apple also became beholden to the music companies.  If Apple annoys them too much, they might pull their products and that would hurt the bottom line.

Don’t believe me?  Jump ahead a year or so to the Airport Express—a nifty little box that let you stream music from your Mac to your stereo.  Of course, all data was encrypted (less some evil person grab the music out of the air) and there was no way to send unencrypted streams, meaning you couldn’t use it with anything other than iTunes.  Why?  Because the music companies decreed it.

Need more evidence?  Consider Ring tones.  There is no way the music companies can in any way claim that I cannot use a clip from a song as a ringtone.  Of course they’ll try—they want more money.  So Apple sold ringtones for 99 cents—but only if you bought the whole song for 99 cents.  So a ringtone cost you $1.98.  Apple basically said, “Look!  Other people charge more!  Such a deal we give you!” rather than saying, “This is rubbish, you can certainly use your music as a ringtone.”

Now we hit the present day.  I have purchased a song.  I want to put it somewhere where I can listen to it wherever I might be.  Perfectly reasonable thing for me to do.  There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to do this.  Amazon believes it.  Google believes it.  But for some reason, Apple thinks I have to get permission from the music companies before I can do this.  Why?  Because the music companies want me to pay them over and over and over again for the same song.  And Apple doesn’t want to piss off the music companies.

So much for the company that fights for our rights, eh?

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