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iTunes launched in Europe
June 16, 2004
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As predicted, the American market leader in legal music downloads has hit the Europe, also becoming the first large service available to Mac users.

Apple’s iTunes service has cut its way through European red tape to join the UK, French and German markets with OD2 and Napster. Sony is due to release a similar service called “Connect” by the end of this month.

iTunes is launching with a list of 700,000 tracks and audio books from authors including John Grisham and Bill Bryson, but there are some notable exceptions. Talks broke down with 800 independent record companies, who represent 25% of the British market. Independent record bosses accused the American corporation of “bullying tactics.”

"We are as eager as anyone to license our music to them, but it has to be at an appropriate competitive rate," said Sam Shemtob, of the Association of Independent Music.

Reportedly, discussions broke down after iTunes tried to tie the labels into a three year agreement, which was not requested of larger record labels. Apple has yet to respond to these allegations.

As a result, Franz Ferdinand, Basement Jaxx, Roots Manuva, Coldcut, Deepest Blue and last year's Mercury music prize winner, Dizzee Rascal, are all be absent from the iTunes virtual shelves.

Adam Howorth, communications director at Napster was quick to jump on these problems. “For those of us who want to listen to music from the UK independent sector, there's no point looking to iTunes. Napster respects the rights holders, whether they're a major label or independent,” he said.

At £1.09 a track, it would be nice if Napster also respected their customers.

OD2 refute claims that the market is becoming crowded, "While the competition is growing, it is also generating more consumer awareness. The market is far from saturated," OD2 Chief Executive Charles Grimsdale said. OD2 has enjoyed a 30% increase in sales since the launch of Napster and will soon be benefiting from integration with Windows Media Player.

iTunes is stands out from the crowd with no required subscription and lower prices than competitors.

The iTunes launch price is lower than predicted, but at 79 pence a track in the UK, is still over priced. Flexibility of the tracks is poor, as users can only play their music on iPods or a PC.

France and Germany also have the pleasure of an iTunes invasion, where prices are more reasonable at 66 pence (€0.99) a track. Wherever you are in Europe, the $0.99 (54 pence, €0.84) American price tag will be viewed with envy.

To counteract the initial impact of iTunes, it is reported OD2 have halved prices for the next two weeks. However, at time of going to press, OD2 partner stores, including HMV and Coca-Cola, are still charging around 99 pence per track.

To further dissuade those using free file sharing networks from switching to legal alternatives, iTunes represents an increasing number of conflicting formats. OD2 and Napster are using a Microsoft format, iTunes are using QuickTime ACC files and Sony will be launching with their own Atrac compression. None of the services have yet to break the basic level 128 bit rate for quality.


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Authorized Music Store :: iTunes

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