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Businesses Music United States Apple Technology

Apple Gets Antitrust Scrutiny Over Music Deals 47

An anonymous reader writes: Bloomberg reports that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is probing Apple after its acquisition of Beats Electronics, and its various deals with record labels to sell music through the iTunes store. As part of the acquisition, Apple now owns the music streaming service created by Beats, and they're planning to release a new version sometime soon. This makes their ties to the record labels, already deep because of iTunes, even stronger — and could affect the labels' relationships with other streaming services, like Spotify. Investigators want to know if Apple is using these business deals as leverage for "curtailing ad-supported music and pushing more songs into paid tiers of service at higher rates."
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Apple Gets Antitrust Scrutiny Over Music Deals

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  • >> various deals with record labels to sell music through the iTunes store

    You just reminded me that I haven't purchased music since about 1998, so for me, there's no monopoly to worry about. And with Songza, Spotify, Pandora and radio streaming + tools to convert streams to mp3, it doesn't seem likely that I will for the next ten years or so.

    • Yes, people do. Especially CDs. I can't get why would anyone buy an .mp3 file, though; perhaps I can't because in my country one has the right to make a single copy of every copyrighted material one owns.
      • It depends. MP3s, probably not. But flac, why not? I know Amazon was looking at it.
        Led Zep remasters coming out these days are available in 24-bit flac, which is good enough for me (and way better than CDs with a proper DAC!)

      • If you really want to support a band that you like especially if they are on an indie label, just go to one of their concerts, buy a t-shirt, have fun, and maybe meet the band.

        • by mlts ( 1038732 )

          Some of the bands I support have been doing boxed sets, as well as LPs.

          Yes, CDs as a distribution medium solely are long since dead, replaced by the 99 cent track [1]. However, bands are selling boxed sets which seem to be making them a decent amount of money, where the box contains a CD, a T-shirt, an amulet, and other items. LPs also sell because they are less for the music value, as opposed to the large surface for album art, which isn't nearly as relevant when on a postage-stamp sized screen on a MP3

          • LPs also sell because they are less for the music value, as opposed to the large surface for album art, which isn't nearly as relevant when on a postage-stamp sized screen on a MP3 player.>

            Album art is the lost gem in the transition to online/digital/portable.

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          If you really want to support a band that you like especially if they are on an indie label, just go to one of their concerts, buy a t-shirt, have fun, and maybe meet the band.

          That works only for bands. But there's more music than bands, especially when it's composers, musicians and others that get together for a recording session, usually because the music in the end is a work for hire.

          Stuff like classical music, soundtracks (movie and video games) and others.

          And yes, I try to avoid buying lossy compressed

      • I could buy used CDs, cheaper than buying downloads. But the artist doesn't make any money on used CDs (and they never did). I will often buy a new CD of stuff I really like as a gift. Other than that I try to go to the shows and recommend to others.

        There is a great free distribution path for music now, but artists haven't figured out how to take advantage yet. If I could buy personal rights to an album directly from the artist, I'd happily pay $5 (or more or less depending on quality) and they wouldn't
      • by jbolden ( 176878 )

        I've done it. When the CD is $14+ and the .mp3 is $5. At that spread I'll take the digital only option. Also for single songs.

      • by Agripa ( 139780 )

        In many or most cases the Loudness Wars have resulted in CDs which sound just as bad as or worse than any compression artifacts introduced by mp3 compression so there is little or no difference. I was shocked when my own amateur live recordings from the sound board started sounding better than what I could buy on CD.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]

    • I still don't see people want to pay indefinitely to be able to hear their music. Also, depending on online services suck [penny-arcade.com].

      • I still don't see people want to pay indefinitely to be able to hear their music.

        Why not? For a few bucks a month I can listen to whatever I want on whatever device I want. In the rare case I can only get some specific music by buying the digital version or buying the CD I'll do that but that's a pain because I have to sync it to all the devices I want to use and I don't always have access to it.

    • You just reminded me that I haven't purchased music since about 1998, so for me, there's no monopoly to worry about. And with Songza, Spotify, Pandora and radio streaming + tools to convert streams to mp3, it doesn't seem likely that I will for the next ten years or so.

      Well, I do remember back in the OLD days, sitting with the radio on the stereo and un-pausing the cassette recorder to try to record songs that were played on the radio.

      I got over that real quick....

      But what you say is fine enough I guess

    • by Karlt1 ( 231423 )

      Thank you for sharing your anecdotal insight. The internet owes you a debt of gratitude.

  • the bright colors and smiling faces tell me so

  • About Time... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Did no one ever consider this when the number of isles of MP3 players went from 5 to 0 in most electronic stores as the ipod ruled them all because that is the only hardware that itunes would work with? Seems like they should have perhaps looked into this years ago.. but I guess they did get caught trying to do the same thing with ebooks..

    • Re:About Time... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @10:29AM (#49629939)

      There was no real Apple monopoly. When Apple came out with the first iPod, its competition was the CD player sized Nomad Jukebox, Compaq's hard disk player (yes... Compaq was the first company to make a hard disk based MP3 player), and Sony with their "MP3" players (which either transcoded to ATRAC3, or added a DRM wrapper to files.)

      Apple's first iPod used MusicMatch and then in their next rev, bought out Casady & Greene's player.

      In reality, at this time, Sony had the music player industry by the short hairs. They had minidisk players, Walkmans, CD players, as well as the above mentioned "MP3" players. Apple just started with one device. Another potential monopoly would have been MS's PlaysForSure, which everyone but Apple and Archos signed up for.

      As for DRM, Apple's was the least onerous. Worst case, burn a playlist to a CD-RW, rip it back in, and call it done. This was a lot better than Sony's OpenMG player which didn't allow copying of music, period. It allowed checkins and checkouts, and would only allow each song to be checked out three times.

      Now, the use of a MP3 player is limited. Maybe for jogging where having a phone is awkward. Even now, there are still non-Apple MP3 players on the shelf which are usable for exercising when one doesn't want to destroy their phone by sweat running down the phone jack into the device, frying it.

      • Now, the use of a MP3 player is limited. Maybe for jogging where having a phone is awkward.

        I have a friend who still has his iPod. The reason is simple--he likes his music but he needs his phone. And he doesn't want to waste his phone battery listening to music when he might need that power for an important phone call.

    • by alen ( 225700 )

      ipod had a lot of competition back in the day and had a small part of the market for the longest time. it's just that most of the other devices and music stores were crap compared to itunes

      • 'crap compared to iTunes' is a pretty low bar.

        Let's just say that the music biz has always thrived on marketing fluff and hype, and that's a core competency at Apple.

  • es" Yeah, I'd been wondering why since last week around half my hundred or so albums on 7digital were suddenly unavailable for download.
  • Just what I always wanted one more app I can't delete from my phone!

  • by cahuenga ( 3493791 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @10:52AM (#49630173)
    "Sources also indicated that Apple offered to pay YouTube’s music licensing fee to Universal Music Group if the label stopped allowing its songs on YouTube. Apple is seemingly trying to clear a path before its streaming service launches, which is expected to debut at WWDC in June. If Apple convinces the labels to stop licensing freemium services from Spotify and YouTube, it could take out a significant portion of business from its two largest music competitors."

    http://www.theverge.com/2015/5... [theverge.com]
  • they make their money off the hardware, not the tunes
    • Good point.

      In some ways, Apple introduced iTunes to make sure that people could buy music on their Macs. Microsoft's DRM solution wouldn't run on Macs and nobody really cared about Real's solution. Since Apple was getting into music (with "Rip, Mix, Burn" and iTunes), they needed this and didn't want to be left behind.

      Now there's plenty of streaming music solutions available for people's iPhones. So why is Apple getting into this market except to compete with their third-party developers?

  • The whole reason they bought beats was for the licensing contracts... they are going to integrate a monthly subscription service into iTunes.

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