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iTunes 90-second 'ultimatum' aimed at indies, talks still on

updated 05:25 pm EDT, Wed November 3, 2010

Apple iTunes 90s deal done with majors, not indies

Apple's 90-second iTunes sample deal has already been reached with major music labels but is simply being pushed on indies, tips from the inside revealed today. EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner have all reportedly signed off so far along with some individual publishers, while the blanket notice to smaller labels was sent without them having reached an agreement. Labels talking to CNET couldn't provide detailed comment but, in two cases, agreed Apple was using hardline tactics by making labels automatically accept the deal just by staying in the store.

Despite having closed deals with labels, performance rights licensing was still an obstacle, contacts said. Both Broadcast Music Inc. and the National Music Publishers Association were reportedly still trying to get additional performance royalties. The NMPA wouldn't comment, but BMI was in "positive" discussions.

Demands of payment for longer sample sizes have long been thought key obstacles to longer samples. ASCAP, BMI, NMPA and other groups have been accused of trying to double-dip on song payouts by charging twice for the same track where they gave free samples before. The organizations are concerned that 90-second samples are closer to full tracks and would justify royalties as a result.

Apple has confirmed that it sent the notice but hasn't said when it plans to extend sample sizes for tracks longer than two minutes and 30 seconds. It may have timed the deal to get longer samples for the holidays and offset cooling digital music sales by giving a better sense of given tracks.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Gazoobee

    Joined: Dec 1969


    a sound clip is not a "performance"

    The thing is no one should have ever agreed to giving anyone any money for a "performance" when said performance is just a sound clip intended to sell the product.

    If they hadn't made the colossally stupid, indefensible and supremely illogical mistake of giving musicians fees for "performing" their works when it isn't actually a performance of any kind, they wouldn't be in negotiations about increasing the fees for it.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Gee, when the iTMS was announced years ago, it was hailed as this great thing that would spur indie labels and drive the big bad RIAA out of business (or at least down a peg or two).

    Now Apple has become one of the 'big boys', basically trying to bully the indie labels into "take it or leave it" terms.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Isn't it only double-dipping if a consumer listens to a sample AND buys that song? What is the percentage of times people listen to the sample before buying the song? If you know you want the song (esp. an album), I doubt you listen to the sample, or, at most, one or two from the whole album.

  1. bdmarsh

    Joined: Dec 1969


    testudo - technically yes

    but people are more likely to buy an individual song after listening to a sample, either through radio (which the artists do not get any payment for, it is considered promotional to help sell albums and tour tickets) or through an online sample system like in iTunes.

    and paying to hear a 30 or even 90 second sample of a song is crazy.

    I can understand artists wanting to be paid when their work is used in something else making money (like a movie, DJs/Clubs, or as part of a public demonstration where making money is involved)

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