Apple (s aapl) users eager to see what the company has in store for cloud music may not have to wait long to find out, as Cupertino is said to have closed a cloud music licensing deal with EMI (s c), according to Cnet (s cbs). Apple is already said to have a deal in place with Warner Music Group (s wmg), and is “very near” similar deals with both Universal Music Group (s cmcsa) (s ge) and Sony Music Entertainment (s sne), according to various sources.
While both Google (s goog) and Amazon (s amzn) have already launched cloud music offerings of their own, which allow users to upload their music collections to remote servers for streaming on various devices, those companies both decided to launch without securing any special license privileges from record labels. Instead, both suggest that they don’t need any additional licenses to offer music owners a new alternative to local storage. Despite the stance, license negotiations are said to be ongoing behind the scenes, at least for Amazon.
Support from record labels shouldn’t be discounted as an insignificant advantage in the cloud music race. Proper licenses mean Apple will be able to make music available in the cloud directly from time of purchase, eliminating the annoying step of requiring you to purchase and then upload your music separately, as users have to do with Google’s offering. And, like the music service Lala it acquired in late 2009, Apple should be able to provide a service that scans your existing iTunes library and provides instant streaming access to all licensed music it has in its collection. Considering some users have huge existing libraries that would take hours or even days to upload using Google’s service, for example, this would be a non-trivial advantage.
Record labels are reportedly pulling for Apple in this case, since they’ve already been left out of the party by Google and Amazon. The hope is that Apple’s service will be much more attractive to users than either Google’s or Amazon’s, which could bring those companies back to the table and make them much more eager to negotiate new licensing deals.
Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference begins June 6, and it’s supposed to be a software-focused event. A cloud music service is definitely a software product, and the unveiling of one by Apple at the event could help people get over an iPhone hardware refresh missing until later this year. If reports are true, all that remains before Apple can introduce the service is for a few remaining pieces to fall into place, so I think it’s likely we’ll see something musical at WWDC.