Apple’s tough iTunes note meant for indie labels

Apple’s letter to music labels about the company’s adoption of 90-second song samples sounded brash and uncompromising, reminiscent of how the company once seemed to negotiate with the music industry.

Apple wrote in e-mails to an undisclosed number of music industry executives– made public on Tuesday — that it would soon offer longer samples for songs that are at least two-and-a-half minutes in length. For shorter songs, iTunes would continue to offer 30-second previews, the company wrote. CNET broke the news in August that Apple planned to offer longer samples.

What raised eyebrows about Apple’s note was that it appeared the company was offering an ultimatum to the entire record industry. But the largest stakeholders, the four top labels–Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, and EMI Music–signed off on Apple’s plan to boost the length of iTunes’ song previews from 30 seconds to 90 seconds in August, according to multiple music industry sources. Apple has also penned individual deals with some of the top publishing companies.

Instead of the big guys, Apple’s letter appears to be directed at the scores of independent record labels, industry insiders said.

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