Peter Kafka

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Apple Signs Sony Up for iRadio, Now Has All Three Major Music Labels on Board

appleradioSony Music has signed on to Apple’s forthcoming iRadio service, according to a person familiar with negotiations between the two companies.

The deal means that Apple now has agreements with all three major music labels. Apple had been pushing music executives to come aboard in advance of its annual developer conference next week, so you should expect to hear an official announcement Monday.

It’s still possible that Apple may have hurdles to clear. As of earlier this week, the company had yet to sign up Sony/ATV, Sony’s music publishing arm. (Update: That deal is now done.)

But the gaps between Sony/ATV and Apple were supposedly smaller than the ones Sony Music and Apple were looking at a few days ago. I’ll update on that deal if I learn more. Apple has previously signed on Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group, the two other major labels.

In any case, Apple isn’t expected to actually launch iRadio at its WWDC event. Instead, it’s expected to tell developers about the forthcoming service, which should function like an enhanced version of Pandora — that is, it will be a free streaming music service that gives users more control of their songs than standard Web radio, but less than full on-demand services like Spotify.

Apple has been trying to launch iRadio — or whatever it will call the service — since last fall, but has been haggling with music owners over payments. Its most recent dispute with Sony was focused on songs that radio listeners skipped: Sony wanted to get paid for any of its songs Apple served up to listeners, even if they didn’t end up hearing the whole recording.

But the music industry in general has been receptive to the iRadio concept: The industry may have bottomed out from its Napster-induced fall, but it’s still very eager for any new forms of digital revenue.


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