Apple's long-planned internet-radio service could be released as early as next week, it is reported tonight.
According to sources speaking to the New York Times, the tech giant has long been in talks with music companies in order to complete licensing deals for the service, but negotiations have apparently been stalled by disagreements over royalty rates and guaranteed minimum payments (in place in case Apple should decide to not sell ads during the service's launch, thus slashing potential profits).
Apple have successfully signed deals with the Universal Music Group and Warner but is still in talks with Sony Music Entertainment, and Sony's publishing arm, Sony/ATV, whose roster of musicians includes Rihanna and Snoop Dogg.
The new service, nicknamed iRadio, is expected to be supported by advertising and available for free to users. Competitors would include the likes of Pandora, an internet radio service currently available only in the US, Australia and New Zealand and which has over 200 million registered users.
Music publishers are currently paid around four per cent of Pandora's revenue, and are reportedly demanding up to 10 per cent from Apple.
Following the success of digital downloads, streaming is set to be the next big frontier for the music industry, although negotiations surrounding royalties have repeatedly mired new development.
The spread of mobile devices with cheap data have allowed more consumers to consider streaming their music as a serious alternative to owning digital copies, though twinning iRadio with iTunes would allow Apple to use the former as a discovery service, boosting sales for iTunes.