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Sony on board for Apple’s streaming service, announcement expected later today

By | Published on Monday 10 June 2013


The Sony record company and music publishing business both signed up to Apple’s planned iRadio service late last week, meaning that the tech giant could announce its streaming music plans at this week’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, with many now predicting some sort of announcement later today.

Apple’s long, long mooted move into the streaming audio space, with an interactive radio service similar to that operated by Pandora, started gaining real momentum a few months back, with insiders reporting that the tech firm was starting to give way to key demands from the big music rights owners in a bid to get to market this side of summer.

Universal Music reportedly signed up in early May, with both sides of Warner Music – recordings and publishing – coming on board just over a week ago. It had long been thought that, of the majors, the Sony companies would drive the hardest bargains, but on Friday afternoon they too reportedly signed on the dotted line, the Sony Music recorded music company first, with the Sony/ATV publishing business, which also controls EMI Music Publishing of course, following shortly after.

In terms of the majors, that leaves just Universal Music Publishing to do the deal, though with overall Universal Music Group chief Lucian Grainge seemingly behind the new venture, and with Apple reportedly offering the publishers a 10% cut of ad revenues, double what has been industry standard for such services, it seems likely that agreement will be in place very shortly – possibly before any announcement by Apple later today.

Of course there has been very little chatter so far about the independents, on both the sound recording and song publishing sides of the equation.

The indie labels, in particular, will definitely kick off if Apple launches its streaming platform without their catalogues signed up, though the tech firm will likely feel confident that, with the major music company deals in place, it can officially announce its iRadio plans, in the hope that everyone else can then be signed up before actual launch.

In terms of catalogue gaps, arguably it will be more important to get the indie publishers on board asap, especially BMG, though talks are thought to already be ongoing in that regard.

While the done deals will definitely allow launch in the US, it’s not yet known whether any multi-territory deals have been done, though any announcement at Apple’s developer event should shed some light on that. It is thought the service itself will be free to the user, with radio-style ads and sell-through to the iTunes download store.

On launch in Europe, it will likely be dubbed a potential “Spotify-killer”, even though it won’t compete head on with the fully on-demand streaming services of the Spotify model.

In the US it will definitely be dubbed a “Pandora-killer”, and investors will be watching that standalone streaming music company’s share price with interest as any Apple announcement is made. Any news, or even rumours, of Apple’s music ambitions can cause Pandora’s share price to wobble, and the tech giant launching a head on competitor could have a sizable impact. Though the actual threat iRadio poses Pandora may depend on how strong its mobile and in-car offering turns out to be.

Stream the keynote here at 6pm UK time.