Jackson’s ‘This Is It’: No iTunes Deal, But Negotiations Intensifying

Sony Music Entertainment and Apple have not reached a deal to position Michael Jackson’s This Is It on the iTunes Store, according to sources Wednesday.

As first reported by Digital Music News on Tuesday, Sony has been insisting on a bundled album download, an approach that Apple has rejected.  Instead, the iTunes Store positions songs as individual downloads, not forced bundles.

The Tuesday report appears to be intensifying negotiations with Apple, though sources indicated that Apple is unlikely to bend on its a-la-carte structure.  Shortly after Digital Music News reported the impasse, the Wall Street Journal published its own story, prompting a Jackson representative to claim that an iTunes deal was happening.  But Sony Music holds the master recording rights – and hence the important cards – in this negotiation, though the Jackson camp certainly has the ability to pressure and steer the outcome.

Others are quickly piling onto the story, typical of the circus that often accompanies Jackson matters.  Sony Music also jumped into the fray, adding more confusion than clarity.  Epic Records representative Lois Najarian told Wired that the album will indeed appear on the iTunes Store, while also simultaneously pointing to the critical sticking point over bundling – a show-stopper for Apple.  “I know that’s the question of the day and they are working on that now,” Najarian said, referencing the core problem.

On Wednesday evening, Sony Music then aggressively (and threateningly) insisted to Digital Music News that the deal was cooked, but declined to clarify the earlier contradiction by Najarian, or offer any additional details (more on that ‘discussion’ later).  Meanwhile, executive sources within the same building are still saying ‘no deal,’ at least without resolution on the bundling issue.

So, who blinks? If the stalemate continues without resolution and Sony stands firm, then AmazonMP3 becomes a huge beneficiary.  But rival download stores told Digital Music News Wednesday morning to expect This Is It on their shelves as well, and original sources confirmed that Amazon does not have an exclusive on the downloadable album.

Stay tuned for more developments on this fluid negotiation.