Independent bands out of tune with 'world's biggest jukebox'

It was meant to be a triumph for Apple, the grand launch of the computer giant's push into the online music business in Europe.

It was meant to be a triumph for Apple, the grand launch of the computer giant's push into the online music business in Europe.

Apple's chief executive, Steve Jobs, flew into London to launch the new iTunes store at a press conference yesterday, backed by the American singer Alicia Keys.

But the high-profile launch was overshadowed by a David and Goliath battle in the background between independent record labels and the computer giant which will mean that some of the biggest stars of modern music are absent from the project.

At stake is the future of what could become the dominant mode of delivery for music in the future - a service that Apple is calling "the biggest jukebox in the world".

Thousands of Britons have bought sleek new iPods, the fashionable hand-held digital players which can store thousands of songs in their memory. But until now there has been no way of legally downloading tracks from the internet to put on the players. Instead iPod users have had to rely on music pirates on the Web or transfer their music collections from CD - a cumbersome and time-consuming process.

The launch of the iTunes store was meant to change all that. Operating in Britain, France and Germany, the service will sell 700,000 tracks for 79p each, with whole albums retailing for £7.99. Mr Jobs, Apple's visionary chief executive, predicted that in future all music would be delivered online. "The internet was built to deliver music. But the first people to discover that were the pirates," he said.

But the best-known independent artists and labels, such as So Solid Crew, Badly Drawn Boy and Craig David, have mounted a boycott. Basement Jaxx, the White Stripes and Franz Ferdinand will also be missing from the online store.

The labels said that the licensing terms gave Apple too much power to raise prices in the future without recompense.

The move is a blow to Apple because independent artists account for about a quarter of music sales in Britain.

A spokesman for the record label trade body the Association of Independent Music said that Apple was trying to impose unfair terms on small labels. Sources said the company was paying the big record labels far more than the independent labels.

Although a small player in the computer market, Apple's new online store has been a success in the United States, having sold 85 million tracks since its launch in April 2003. The revenues represent nearly 2 per cent of the entire US record market - a significant chunk in just a year of existence.

In Britain, Apple will sell individual tracks provided by the five major record labels without a subscription for 79p from the UK site, or €0.99 from the Continental sites, undercutting most European download sites, which generally charge 99p per track.

The arrival of the European site is expected to draw buyers who have iPods and fast internet connections: once a track is bought with a single click, it downloads immediately to the computer, and can then be transferred automatically to an iPod. Worldwide, Apple has sold more than three million iPods since their launch in 2001. Britons have bought more than 100,000, and yesterday the retailer John Lewis, which has sold 11,000 since February this year, forecast that the iTunes launch would boost iPod sales by 40 per cent.

Mr Jobs said that pirated music was hard to find in an easily accessible form. "It takes about 15 minutes to find the right song and get a good working copy on the pirate networks," he said. "And what's more, it's stealing." The iTunes Music Store, which is accessed through the company's iTunes software, on Windows or Apple computers, offered fast, legal downloads. "And it's not stealing, it's good karma," he added.

Martin Mills, chairman of Beggars Group and the Association of Independent Music Labels, said: "They're launching with a bullishly low price in the UK, but prices do tend to edge up over time. They're trying to lock us into long-term deals, but their terms had a fixed price for the life of the contract." The labels want to up the payment they receive if Apple raises its prices. They believe the bigger labels already have such "break points" in their contracts.

Mr Mills is still eager to do a deal - as was Mr Jobs yesterday. "We have signed dozens of independent labels, and we're happy to sign more," said Mr Jobs. Mr Mills said that whether the site succeeded or failed "in a few months we will need them, and they will need us".

The big stand-off has begun.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam