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One online music locker arrives and suddenly there’s a bunch of them

It’s hard to know for sure what’s going on with music locker services this week after it appears that Apple has been signing up music labels, and payi

By PETER WHITE

Published: 28 April, 2011

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It’s hard to know for sure what’s going on with music locker services this week after it appears that Apple has been signing up music labels, and paying them for the privilege of putting their content into online lockers, so that it can launch its own service. At least that’s what can be pieced together from reports from All Things Digital, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and a variety of other digital web blogs, all citing insiders.

What appears to have happened is that Apple, Google and Amazon and perhaps others have all been trying to push the record labels to allow the storage of music content on cloud servers, and working on the concept for some months if not longer, and two weeks ago Amazon just went ahead and announced it, believing that it didn’t need a license from labels, and probably exasperated by what the labels were asking for.

That could well have triggered a flurry of activity with Apple asking why it wasn’t allowed a deal if Amazon was going to be allowed to get away with its unilateral move. The chances are Apple offered to pay for a license to help make it harder for Amazon to get away with the assumption that it doesn’t need one. Google is widely reported to have given up on the whole idea because the labels demands had been too unrealistic. Well that was perhaps before Amazon made its move and Google will be calling on the same people to rejoin the fun. After it has been the cheerleader on cloud services all along.

The big difference here is that Apple is already responsible for much of the online sales of the record labels – their futures are inextricably intertwined. Amazon is one of the leading sellers of music on CDs, so ditto – and Google will one day hold the key to getting on and off 100s of millions of Android devices. Record labels can’t afford to let one of them get ahead of the other or get better terms.

Expect both Amazon to quietly license locker rights on the same terms as Apple and for Google to follow close behind that, perhaps a little more publicly.

Apple is thought to be ready to launch its service in the next few weeks, but it may be somewhat less helpful than Amazon’s service to consumers. It will likely use iTunes software to deliver the content to an online locker, and we know how tricky it is getting content out of iTunes to play on a non-Apple device. The Amazon store and content locker is likely to be far friendlier, as may be one that eventually appears from Google.

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