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Wednesday, Nov 03, 2010 5:25pm
iTunes 90-second 'ultimatum' aimed at indies, talks still on
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.