The coverage on this is a tad bit confusing. First story I saw was at the Register and it implied that UMG was contemplating not re-upping. Others seem to be asserting that it is a done deal. I’m guess that until we hear from the Jobs, the issue will not be closed regardless of what UMG is saying.
My favorite write up, so far, is Cory’s over at Boing Boing. Just contemplating the image he conjures of UMG slitting their own throat gives me shivers. Its a hard point to argue. UMG, among others, complains and complains of piracy and lobbies for draconian and drastic anti-piracy legislation. And now they are considering or already have ended their involvement with the dominant legitimate offering. Like iTunes or not, it is hard to disagree with Cory’s point about the pretty much untenable position in which UMG is placing itself.
Sadly, I doubt anyone there has realized this. He makes an observations about the changing of the guard I have seen elsewhere. If true, that’s an even more likely cause for what would seem, reasoning logically, to be a complete rhetorical disconnect.
As I mentioned at the outset, the other shoe will be Apple’s response. By all accounts, EMI’s DRM-free offering has been successful. This gives Steve a simple response to UMG if they want more money pure track. Give it to us without DRM and we’ll gladly apply the new “Plus” pricing. I very much wish that to be his response but I doubt very much it will come down to so simple an ultimatum.
Updated: The NYT has a better story. It clarifies the situation and UMG’s apparent intent. The issues isn’t whether they will necessarily continue to offer music through iTunes. They apparently want to do so “at will” meaning they can take their offering away on short notice, essentially in a snit, if they have qualms with Apple’s pricing or terms of service, or whatever.
Oh, yeah, and what many who are covering this are unsurprisingly neglecting to mention: this is not a snap decision. Apple and UMG had already been in negotiations so this seems to be more the result of a stand off than fickleness on the part of the label.