Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Don't Count on Music Subscriptions or Streaming From Apple Tomorrow

What’s Apple planning at its iTunes announcement tomorrow? Good question!

But I’ll be very surprised if it is music related–like a new music subscription service, or even one that lets you stream music you already own to multiple devices.

(UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal says that Apple has finally signed the Beatles to an iTunes deal to be announced “soon”. Which makes tomorrow’s announcement a much easier guess.)

It’s easy to understand why Apple might head in that direction: Generally, because it seems inevitable and because Google has been talking about doing something similar. And specifically, because Apple has that shiny new North Carolina data center to play with.

But the music industry sources I’ve talked to so far today don’t know of any new deals between Apple and the big music labels. So that would rule out a new subscription service, which would definitely require a new rights deal.

And that also makes it very unlikely that Apple does the next best thing: Letting users upload their iTunes catalog to the cloud, and letting them access it anywhere they want.

Does Apple have to get a special deal with the labels in order to do that? Not necessarily. Some start-ups are offering similar services, without a deal (though one of them, MP3tunes, is getting sued).

And you can make a common-sense argument that simply storing someone’s data, then letting them access it again, shouldn’t require a deal. But the labels argue that it does.

So unless Apple wants to make them go ballistic–and freak out the movie and TV studios, the folks that Steve Jobs really wants to court–it’s hard to see Apple announcing a service without signed paperwork.

Okay. So what are they announcing? Again–got me. Hoping to find out before tomorrow, but if not I’ll be watching at 10 am Eastern like the rest of you.

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