Universal denies involvement in anticompetitive deals for Apple Music

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We’ve already heard several times that Apple has been facing investigations from both the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission over how it negotiated with labels for Apple Music. Now, the New York State’s attorney general has posted a letter from Universal Music Group in which it claims that it is not doing anything illegal to prohibit the access of free music services by the consumer. From the letter:

UMG does not currently have any agreements with Apple Inc. (i) to impede the availability of third-party free or ad-supported music streaming services, or (ii) that limit, restrict, or prevent UMG from licensing its recorded music repertoire to any third- party music streaming service on any terms that UMG may choose. Nor does UMG intend to enter into any such agreements.

Apple has been accused of using its large pull with labels to put other streaming music services like Spotify at a disadvantage. One specific example of this that has been pointed out earlier is Apple forcing labels to reduce the music that it makes available to ad-supported services in an effort to bolster the selection available on Apple Music.

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Spotify is not ending its free service (Updated)

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Update: We’ve gotten word from a Spotify spokesperson that the Free model isn’t going anywhere. Director of Communications at Spotify Graham James told me “This is totally false.  Our model is working.” 

Digital Music News is claiming that Spotify is coming under pressure from music labels to end its free, ad-supported service, limiting users to a three-month free trial.

The three-month ‘proposal,’ advanced most principally by major labels Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, would allow current, free-access, ad-supported (or ‘freemium’) subscribers to continue their plans for 6 months, while new users would be limited to three months only.

Coincidentally or not, Universal Music Group is one of the labels specifically mentioned in two investigations into whether Apple is attempting to stifle competition in the run up to launching its own streaming music service …  Read more

Spotify turns up the heat against Apple’s streaming music service, making fresh anti-competitive behavior claim

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Spotify, which is widely believed to be behind the antitrust allegations that led to both EC and DOJ investigations into Apple, has now added a fresh complaint. The Verge reports Spotify is complaining that the 30% cut Apple takes from in-app Premium subscriptions in the iOS app amounts to an “Apple tax.”

Apple charges a 30 percent fee toward any sales through its App Store, and that includes subscription services. That means if Spotify wants to sell its premium subscription service — which usually costs $9.99 a month — through the App Store, it has to raise the price 30 percent higher to $12.99 to pull in the same revenue, while Apple can still offer Beats at a lower price. Spotify and many others in the music industry believe Apple’s App Store tax gives them an unfair advantage over the competition.

One unnamed music industry source said that Apple taking 30% was “**cking bullsh**” …  Read more

Apple said to be closing music deals in order to launch ‘iRadio’ at upcoming WWDC

Update: Bloomberg adds more to WSJ’s report from earlier claiming that Apple’s new radio service will be tightly integrated with its iAd business. The report says Eddy Cue is currently making changes to the iAd business to support the new radio service scheduled to launch later this year alongside iOS 7:

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, has been negotiating with advertising companies including Omnicom Group Inc (OMC).’s OMD to secure brands that will run campaigns on the radio service, one person said..The company has taken steps to be more flexible with advertisers to get more business. Apple has required marketers to pay a fee for each 1,000 times an advertisement is placed in an app, plus an additional $2 for every time a customer clicks that ad. In some cases, Apple has eliminated one of those charges, one person familiar with the company said.

Apple also has cut prices so that media agencies can spend $1 million and use the purchased space for different advertising clients. And Apple started taking ad business from companies that sell alcohol, something Jobs resisted after creating iAd, said one person.

We’ve heard no shortage of rumors on the rumored iRadio streaming service from Apple that has taken on some new urgency after Google released a similar service at Google I/O last month (and plans to launch it on iOS soon). The latest comes from the NYTimes, which says Apple is rushing to close deals as days wind down to WWDC’s kickoff on June 10th.

After months of stalled negotiations over its planned Internet radio service, Apple is pushing to complete licensing deals with music companies so it can reveal the service as early as next week, according to people briefed on the talks.

It would appear that Apple wants to announce the service at WWDC, but the company needs to overcome issues with closing some of the deals. CNET reported earlier today that Apple had closed the deal with Warner, one of the bigger labels.

Apple has signed a deal with the Universal Music Group for its recorded music rights, but not for music publishing — the part of the business that deals with songwriting. Over the weekend, Apple also signed a deal with the Warner Music Group for both rights. It is still in talks with Sony Music Entertainment and Sony’s separate publishing arm, Sony/ATV, whose songwriters include Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga.

In a strange irony, the music service Apple offers is, again, said to be free and supported by ads (like Pandora/Spotify/Slacker/etc). This is in contrast to Google’s service, which is sold via a paid subscription.

I would have guessed the opposite, but this may be why Google was able to close the deals with the labels and Apple is still at the table.

WSJ adds that Apple will pay Warner 10% of ad revenue, about twice as much as Pandora, and that the service will be integrated with iAd.

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‘Radio Buy Buttons’ found in iOS 6.1 via newly jailbroken iPads, could mean new functionality coming

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‘Radio Buy’ buttons, above, enlarged, put together from files, below

Having a look around our newly jailbroken iPads with iFunBox, we happened on a new set of files in the iPad Music.app. The files are called some variation of “radio button” with an icon that looks similar to the radio icon that used to be in iTunes for Mac (it was traded for a more prominent top location in iTunes 11 without the antenna tower). The iPad music app currently doesn’t have any radio functionality, so our first thought was that Apple would be adding an iTunes-like ‘traditional’ streaming radio to the iPad. Notably, jailbroken iPhones don’t contain these files in the Music app.

More interestingly, the name of these button files and are labeled with “buy” in the filename. This could imply exciting new functionality. We heard no shortage of rumors that Apple planned to take on the Pandoras and Spotifys of the world with its own ‘Radio’ service, and Bloomberg predicted a Q1 2013 (current) launch…

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Apple objects to discovery request of secret Steve Jobs and Eddy Cue depositions

According to a report from The Hollywood Reporter, Apple is objecting to a discovery request in a class action case against Universal Music Group that seeks the release of trial exhibits, expert reports, and depositions from former CEO Steve Jobs and Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue.

The depositions were originally given in a case between F.B.T. Productions, producers of Eminem records, and Universal Music group division Aftermath Records. That case is about to go to trial, but Apple is filing an objection to the discovery request from the class action that would alter an existing protective order, claiming the depositions and documents are “highly confidential and proprietary trade secrets.”

In its objection, Apple apparently referenced the fact that most involved in the case were sent out of the room during the depositions and claimed if released it could lead to “competitive harm”:
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Apple TV goes on sale in Brazil

The Next Web notes that Apple today introduced Brazil to its Apple TV set-top box.  The hobby project is available in the Brazilian online Apple Store for R$ 399,00, or approximately $217 (compare this to the $99 price point in the United States). The gizmo is available now and comes with free shipping. This is the first BRIC nation to get the Apple TV (BRIC being a term for huge global emerging economies coined by Goldman Sachs). According to a Strategy Analytics analysis, Apple’s set-top  box is set to capture nearly one-third, or 32 percent, of the set-top box market in the US 2011 based on projected sales of four million units. A hardware update is expected to include 1080p video output and Bluetooth 4.0 technology, among other things.

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Vevo delivers lovely Vevo HD player for iPad

Forget Flash, really, forget it. I don’t care how much more efficient it is at last becoming now it faces much-needed competition — I do however care that US iPad users can now download Vevo HD, a beautiful app offering you access to all 25,000 videos in Vevo’s huge catalog — no Flash required.

“The app has a few special features created especially for the iPad, including our favorite one, Music Maps, which gives you a window into what videos people are watching in your neighborhood and around the world,” the company says on its website. Read more