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V. Barbarino

Apple makes deal with European independent music labels

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Apple makes deal with European independent music labels

Thursday, July 22, 2004 Posted: 11:26 AM EDT (1526 GMT)

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Apple Computer Inc. clinched licensing deals with a trio of Europe's independent music labels to bring acts such as The White Stripes and Basement Jaxx to iTunes Europe customers for downloading, the company said Wednesday.

The deals, struck this week with Beggars Group, Sanctuary Records Group and V2, pave the way for further signings from other European independent labels in the near future, Apple and music industry officials said.

"We now have a standard agreement. It's a deal that all UK and European independent labels can get from Apple," said Sam Sheptob, a spokesman for the Association of Independent Music, a UK trade body representing an assortment of independent labels. Independent labels are smaller music companies not affiliated with any major media conglomerate.

Apple last month launched iTunes in Germany, the United Kingdom and France. It sold 800,000 tracks in its first week in Europe and has sold over 100 million since its U.S. launch 15 months ago.

But to the disappointment of Europe's music fans, iTunes made its debut with some significant roster omissions. Apple failed to sign a single independent act as negotiations between the computer maker and their labels repeatedly fell apart.

The breakdown in negotiations proved frustrating for iTunes' European customers who took to the online store to wage small protests by naming their song collections things like "iTunes needs more indies."

The labels too were anxious to get a deal done as iTunes has become the runaway hit in the still small market for music downloads.

"In the U.S., iTunes represents up to 5 percent of certain of our album sales already, and key tracks are selling in quantities that simply were inconceivable before," said Martin Mills, Beggars Group chairman.

Apple said the first three signings add tens of thousands of songs to iTunes Europe's 700,000 track library.

Europe's collection of independent music labels account for just over 20 percent of recorded music sales in Europe and include popular acts ranging from Morrissey to Paul Weller.

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