Universal Music Toughens iTunes Stance, Reports

Universal Music Group is now structuring tougher contract terms with Apple and its iTunes Store, according to recent reports.

The Wall Street Journal noted on Sunday that the major label is not renewing a longer-term contract with Apple, and instead shifting towards a shorter-term agreement.  Elsewhere, Reuters reported that Universal is moving towards a month-to-month arrangement, instead of a proposed two-year deal.  The shortened structure would offer greater flexibility for Universal and potentially dangle the threat of a more serious removal.

The news is not entirely unexpected, and follows some hard-line rumblings from within the major.  Earlier, sources to Digital Music News noted that a number of higher-level executives are becoming increasingly unhappy with Apple, though the prospect of a complete removal may be extreme.  But sticking points related to pricing have plagued the relationship for years, and Apple has offered little flexibility on its uniform, 99-cent single download price point.  That stance softened with the introduction of higher-priced, DRM-free content from EMI, though other majors have yet to follow that lead.