Apple wins hearts and pockets of big five labels

29 Apr 2003

In his typical showbiz fashion, Apple CEO Steve Jobs last night unveiled Apple’s latest music strategy, consisting of the latest iPod music player devices and a 200,000-song iTunes music store, described as a cross between Napster and fee-based services like Rhapsody.

Last night, the Apple founder revealed that his company was able to negotiate landmark deals with all of the major music labels to launch the new music store.

The iTunes Music Store has a library of more than 200,000 tracks provided by five of the biggest music labels in the world, covering all the major genres including rock, blues, pop, R&B and electronic, which will cost 99 cents to download.

To use the service, there is no subscription fee and each track includes the most liberal copying rights of any online service to date. Jobs described the new music store as falling between Napster and fee-based services such as Rhapsody and Pressplay.

At present only available to the US market, the songs can be transferred freely to iPod players, burned on unlimited numbers of CDs and accessed on up to a maximum of three Macintosh computers. Each song can be previewed for 30 seconds at no charge.

The iTunes Music Store also features the new AAC music file format, which combines sound quality that rivals CDs and can download faster at 128Kbps (kilobits per second) per track.

To use the service, users would have to have Apple’s OS X operating system as well as downloading a copy of iTunes 4.

Jobs also unveiled three new ultra-thin iPod music players which come with 10GB, 15GB and 30GB of space, capable of storing thousands of songs and video files. They will retail for US$299, US$399 and US$499 respectively, and come resplendent with a new docking station as well as an audio-out socket that can be used to connect the devices to home stereos.

The fact that Apple had managed to secure such liberal deals with the five biggest music labels is somewhat surprising, considering Jobs is regarded in the industry as an outspoken opponent of digital rights management (DRM) as he believes that limitations on digital music will undermine the market for legitimate content. The music industry, on the other hand, has been somewhat anxious to curb free and easy downloading of music. The achievement also comes on the heels of speculation that Apple has been considering acquiring or merging with Universal Music Group, which is owned by Vivendi, and is the largest of the big five music labels.

By John Kennedy