Apple’s announcement this week that iTunes Music Stores are
open for business in the UK, France and Germany
comes almost exactly forty years after the Beatles led the charge of “The British Invasion,” which featured a horde of UK bands that conquered and re-energized the American pop music market.
Then, as now, licensing, rights, and money were central issues for the record labels. For a short while, Beatles tunes appeared in the U.S. on three competing labels, but Capitol records eventually won the day and made a boatload of money.
Apple’s new venture also will likely meet with eventual success, but there’s at least one issue that’s causing an initial snag — and the bad news is that the complaints are coming from musicians and independent labels, who account for more than 20 percent of sales in Britain and Germany.
Macworld UK has led the reporting on the
fight between Apple and independent labels
(“indies”) over how much money the bands will receive, and whether they’ll sign individual deals (Apple’s wish) or collective licensing deals (the bands’ wish).
A member of the UK’s Association of Independent Music described Apple as “attempting to implement deals the independents consider to be ‘commercial suicide’ in the offline world.” And a label “insider” told the British newspaper, The Guardian, “This is just another example of a monopolistic American company trying to dictate terms.”
Ish, as my cousins from Minnesota might say.
A second Macworld UK article points out that earlier this year
MTV faced a similar problem
with the indies, and was forced to cave and re-negotiate. That’s not usually Apple’s preferred method of doing business, so it will be very interesting to see how the battle turns out.
Of course, this could be just a matter of early invasion logistics. Another report, from DigitalMedia Europe (DME), suggests that the
brouhaha may be a tempest in a teapot, simply a result of Apple’s need to get up and running in order to quash rivals such as Napster, Sony and Peter Gabriel’s On-Demand Distribution (OD2) subscription service.
The editor of Faultine, a UK newsletter that tracks how content companies fare in the move to a digital world, told DME, “The indies will come on board very rapidly, and in fact negotiations have not broken down, they (Apple) just couldn’t wait for them (indies). Jobs is not nice to negotiate with – just ask Michael Eisner.”
He also notes whom he sees as Apple’s chief competition and makes a (to me) startling prediction: “The one I worry about the most is Sony Connect, which is dreadful, but I like their devices the best… (but) if Sony doesn’t get its service act together it will have to come up with a way of importing Apple songs.”
Which should be music to Steve Jobs’ ears. I just hope he and the indies can end up on the same side of the digital music revolution across the pond.
iTunes Music Store comes to UK, France, Germany
Apple on Tuesday opened for business its iTunes Music Store to customers in the UK, France and Germany. Apple said that a European Union version of the store is coming this October. Music is priced at €0.99 or £0.79 per track. The iTunes Music Store launches in the UK, France and Germany with more than 700,000 songs in its catalog, with songs from popular commercial artists represented by the five major music companies as well as dozens of independent record labels.
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