updated 06:30 pm EDT, Tue September 7, 2010
Apple said too hasty on iTunes sample length
Apple's plans for minute-long iTunes samples may have been thwarted by the sheer number of deals it needed, both official and unofficial sources divulged Tuesday afternoon. Although all the music labels themselves are still reported by CNET as onboard, Apple had yet to clear both Broadcast Music Inc.'s performance rights and the National Music Publishers Association's rights. The NMPA brought Apple's plans to a halt a day before last week's music event after lawyers told association CEO David Israelite that a formal deal was essential.
The company already has a deal with BMI's counterpart ASCAP that would exempt it from limits, but BMI spokeswoman Hanna Pantle said her organization was still in "active negotiations" with Apple.
The iTunes operator's push to get a deal may have been prompted by its desire to avoid music label politics. Tipsters mentioned that Apple may not have realized how many agencies were involved in changing the deal, but also that the company wanted to avoid the complex web of agreements some have had to face. It has also been a staunch opponent of having to pay a separate royalty rate for samples and full songs. Groups like ASCAP have tried to ask for sample royalties but have so far been shot down by Apple and critics, in part because it would be "double dipping" for what amounts to the same material.
Longer samples might tie directly into the emphasis Apple chief Steve Jobs placed on music discovery in launching iTunes 10. While criticized for not being truly social, Ping was designed to simplify sharing tastes in music; 60-second samples would provide a better sense of a given track. It would also help music genres where the tracks often run long, such as classical and electronic, by sampling core parts of songs that would otherwise be missed.
No timeframe has been given for a complete deal, but the industry may not have much choice. Apple now represents nearly a third of all US music where its next closest rival, Amazon, has 12 percent and is propped up both by CD sales and taking share from other, smaller stores.