Apple to shore up licensing deals with all 4 major record labels ahead of iCloud announcement

Tue, May 31, 2011


Apple earlier today issued a press release announcing that CEO Steve Jobs will deliver this year’s WWDC keynote where he will not only unveil OS X Lion and iOS 5, but will also showcase Apple’s upcoming cloud-based initiative dubbed iCloud.

There have been a bevy of rumors as of late circling around Apple’s efforts to get the four major record labels to sign on board with iCloud. The service will purportedly house a digital locker that will allow users to stream purchased iTunes content to any iOS device they happen to be using. As of last week, Apple had secured deals with 3 of the 4 top record labels with Universal Music being the last holdout.

Well, now comes word via the WSJ that Universal will ink a deal with Apple this week, joining the ranks of the Warner Music Group, Sony Music, and EMI.

But terms of the deals between Apple and the record labels would allow Cupertino, Calif., Apple to offer what is known in the industry as a “scan and match” locker service. Services like those offered by Google and Amazon require users to upload their music libraries.

The type of service Apple is expected to start analyzes the library and grant access to songs it recognizes, without requiring an upload step. Users then are able to listen to their music on compatible smart phones and PCs, without copying the songs into the device’s memory.

Interestingly, the Journal notes that Apple is still trying to secure licensing rights with music publishers, which “control separate rights than recorded-music companies.” As a quick primer, the record companies own the actual song recordings while publishers wield control over the actual words and melodies.

Apple’s press release today was noteworthy not only because of Steve Jobs involvement in delivering the keynote, but also because Apple doesn’t typically produce a table of contents for its WWDC events. That said, the agenda for next Tuesday includes OS X Lion, iOS 5, and iCloud. And seeing as how Apple typically saves the best for last, the way Apple constructed its press release implies that iCloud will be something quite major, and dare we speculate, groundbreaking.

Also, remember that Apple over the past few days has reached out to foreign journalists in an attempt to convince them to attend WWDC. With word that there will be no advanced iPhone 5 announcement, many media correspondents may not feel it’s worth it to travel down to San Francisco next week. More recent rumors have pointed to the potential release or announcement of an iPhone 4S model that will feature decent spec upgrades along with the inclusion of an 8 megapixel camera.

At the same time, it’s entirely possible that Apple released its WWDC keynote agenda to temper expectations from a contigency of loyal followers who have arguably grown spoiled with “one more thing ” announcements.


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