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Universal alters the playing field with iTunes

Universal alters the playing field with iTunes

Universal Music Group has confirmed reports that it has altered its licensing deal with Apple's iTunes service.

The world's largest major record label last night released a statement on the matter. "Universal Music Group has decided not to renew its long-term agreement for Apple's iTunes service. Universal Music Group will now market its music to iTunes in an 'at will' capacity, as it does with its other retail partners."

It's the end of fraught negotiations between the two firms. The previous three-year deal between them expired last year, and a temporary one-year agreement was reached.

Stakes are high: while Universal is the label behind one-in-three records released worldwide, Apple's iTunes service has become the third-biggest music retailer in the U.S.

iTunes has also become synonymous with online music services, and is estimated to hand US$200 million in profit to Universal each year.

However, it is thought that Universal wants to be able to offer some music by some bands exclusively through other online music services in its attempt to reduce Apple's control of the online business.

This could mean that music from key artists may not be made available through Apple's service.

The new deal is to be agreed on a monthly basis. The fracas between the two firms could reflect Universal's continued demands for flexible pricing, and may even reflect its displeasure at Apple's iTunes Plus service.

Reports that Universal will withdraw all its music from iTunes have since been characterised as incorrect.

Apple has not issued a statement on this matter at this time.


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