Universal Said To Ink Music Deal With Apple Ahead Of iCloud Debut

Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) is said to have secured the services of the music industry’s “gang of four,” signing the remaining holdout, Universal Music, to a contract that would allow Apple to offer a cloud-based music service. A preview of the company’s plans could come as early as Monday, when Apple holds its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.

According to reports from CNET and The Los Angeles Times, Universal will join EMI Music, Sony (NYSE: SNE) Music, and Warner Music in having inked deals with Apple, which has already announced in a press release that it plans to talk Monday about iCloud, “Apple’s upcoming cloud services offering.” It doesn’t seem that Apple will be ready to launch anything on Monday, as there are a few agreements that remain to be worked out with music publishers, but clearly everything is moving in Apple’s direction.

One key advantage enjoyed by any online music service developed by Apple will be those contracts, which will allow Apple to offer features such as music purchasing that others–namely Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Amazon–can’t match with their new music services, unlicensed by the music industry. CNET and the Times split on the revenue share details, with CNET reporting that the labels would get 58 percent, the publishers 12 percent, and Apple 30 percent, while the Times wrote that the publishers’ 12 percent cut is actually coming out of Apple’s share, not the labels’.

But in any event, Apple appears to be well on its way to shoring up its Web strategy with a service it is already quite well-known for supplying: digital music. Google CEO Eric Schmidt suggested this week that four modern technology companies–Apple, Google, Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), and Facebook–are each competing to build out the platforms that will shape 21st-century computing, dubbing them the “gang of four.” With music deals under its belt, Apple would likely prefer to see that reference through the eyes of the British rock band from the ’70s and ’80s, rather than the group blamed for China’s Cultural Revolution.