Apple to sign Universal on iRadio next week, agrees to rates ‘neck and neck’ with Pandora

iTunes 11 (three up, MacBook, iPhone, iPad)

Another piece of the puzzle has fallen into place as a new report sourced from multiple people familiar with the matter claims that an agreement between Apple and Universal Music on iRadio is “imminent.” History teaches us it only takes one major record until others others eventually back Apple’s rumored Pandora-like streaming music service. Besides, Universal Music is the largest record label in the world. Warner Music is “right behind,” though negotiations with Sony reportedly are not as far along…

Greg Sandoval, writing for The Verge:

Apple is expected to sign its first Internet radio licensing agreement with a major record label perhaps as soon as next week, multiple sources with knowledge of the talks have told The Verge.

Universal Music Group, the largest of the major record companies has reached the final stages of the negotiations, and Warner Music is close behind, the sources said.

CNET followed up with a story of their own, adding the following tidbit:

The service, according to sources, most closely resembles Pandora because it doesn’t offer on-demand listening. Apple is building some unique features, such as the ability to jump back to the beginning of a song, according to one person briefed on the company’s plans.

Last week, CNET said Apple was very close to signing a deal with both Warner Music and Universal Music Group.

The  Verge story mentions Apple “will not receive the steep discounts” it had sought for the labels’ music.

Previously, The New York Post claimed Apple’s initial offer to the labels was about six cents per hundred songs streamed, or about half of the twelve cents per hundred songs paid by Pandora. The New York Times corroborated that iRadio had been delayed by licensing negotiations, which can get quite complex.

The Verge report also has it that Apple has agreed to pay rates comparable to what Pandora pays the labels.

Apple initially offered to pay 6 cents per 100 songs streamed, or about half of what Pandora pays. Now, Apple will pay rates nearly “neck and neck” with Pandora, one of the sources said.

Given Apple’s choke hold of the music industry and iTunes’ dominance of the music download landscape, each north of the 50 percent share, Spotify could be the biggest loser provided iRadio offers similarly attractive tiers.

Spotify is available free on desktop computers in exchange for ads and lower bit rates. A $9.99 a month Premium tier is available for ad-free, high-quality streaming.

It’s believed iRadio is like Pandora: it’ll be free and play music based on your genre and artist tastes. There might be no Spotify-like music on demand on iRadio as Apple hopes to make money with prominent links to iTunes downloads and iAd revenue, CNET reported last week.

I’m not really sure Apple is willing to go down that route.

People are emotionally attached to their music and injecting iAds into songs may be deemed intrusive and rude, at least given high expectations of Apple’s customers. I also am not sold on a theory that iRadio is being conceived as a limited and free music discovery service mean to drive sales of downloads.

Who wants to buy music files when Spotify, Pandora, Rdio and others offer unlimited streaming of tens of millions of songs for the monthly price of one new iTunes album?

What do you make of this iRadio thing?

Is this something you’d want to use?

And how much would you be willing to pay for it?