Apple, Inc – Record Label?

This one threw us for a loop the first time we heard it. And the second. And the third when MM (you know who you are!) dropped us a line about it. But then, Apple, Inc. settled with Apple Corps and suddenly, it seemed a lot more possible. Then, Steve came out against DRM, and now the pieces are starting to fit together.

To recap, Apple Computer (now just Apple, or Apple, Inc. if you want to call them that) and the Beatles’ label, Apple Corps, had a longstanding feud relating to Apple Computer using the Apple name in regard to music. It all started way back in the 70s, when Apple Computer was founded and was sued in 1978 by the Beatles’ label (more technically, the holding company that owns their label, but potato, potahto)…in 1981, they settled and Apple Computer agreed not to enter the music business. Eight years later, in 1989, Apple Corps sued Apple Computer again, this time because Apple Computer had added audio recording capabilities to the Mac…they settled again in 1991. Then, in 2003, Apple Corps came suing again, for use of the Apple Computer logo in sales of music via iTunes (among other charges), and finally, here in 2007, we have the third settlement (three strikes and you’re out?).

Interestingly, as a part of that settlement, Apple Computer now owns ALL of the trademarks related to “Apple” (at least, all the ones that they or Apple Corps owned) and will license a limited set of those trademarks back to Apple Corps! This ended the feud, and should, once and for all, put the whole mess behind everyone.

Of course, the rumor mill has been active with the concept of Apple now doing a deal with the Beatles, making a yellow-submarine iPod, or selling Beatles songs exclusively through iTunes, and bla, bla, bla. It was going to be announced during the Super Bowl, they say, and now it’s going to be announced on Valentine’s Day (good thing we only have a couple days to wait, huh?).

Well, THIS rumor mill has something bigger up its sleeve, and that is Apple’s plan to distribute music directly on iPod/iPhone, allow for pre-loading of songs via select retail outlets (Apple retail stores) but best of all, allow artists to distribute their music directly through iTunes, WITHOUT DRM and WITHOUT a record label. Now, mind you, we understand that we’re not quite there yet…iTunes isn’t quite dominant enough that it alone can bring new artists onto the scene and promote them enough to break them into radio airplay and the charts (not to mention the payola involved in actually getting an act on the air and in the stores is crazy, exactly why no one has tried this before). However, for EXISTING artists, that are already big names (like for instance, U2…we all know how close Bono and the boys are to Apple), having music that is iTunes exclusive, can’t be bought in stores, is going to be a huge business for Apple. It will sell more iPods, too (and possibly other MP3 players if the acts decide to distribute their music without DRM).

What is also really interesting about the U2 angle is that U2 happens to be on the Interscope Records label…Interscope Records is owned by Universal…Universal has cozied up with Microsoft already and gotten paid by them for each Zune sold…and they want Apple to do the same thing (here’s a little article about it). Funny how they would be so vocal about it, and funny that U2 happens to be one of their acts…does anyone want to think about what it’d do to them for U2 to jump ship to Apple, and shout from the rooftops that they make FAR more money with Apple as their label than they ever did with Universal?? Could it be the end of the RIAA Cartel?? And if Apple does this, without DRM, won’t everyone else look pretty damned stupid? Add the Beatles to the mix, and suddenly you have two pretty huge acts with broad appeal making tons and tons of money and the RIAA is left right out in the cold…

Now we need to go change our names and go into witness protection, as we’ve just implied the end of the RIAA…pretty soon they’ll be suing our dogs and deceased grandparents!

What do you think? Send us your thoughts, comment below, and…aw heck, you know what we’re going to ask, so we won’t bother…

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29 Responses to Apple, Inc – Record Label?

  1. Reb says:

    iTunes sales pale in comparison with CDs. Apple’s not a substitute “label”. They’re not in that business, period. Sure, preloaded iPods are possible after the settlement. More than that, I doubt it.

  2. Jason says:

    The Beatles thing is a foregone conclusion. It will happen.

    A Valentine’s Day Announcement – my guess – will be a reality.

    I’m a HUGE Apple fanboy, as well a a HUGE Beatles fan. I own original vinyl of all their US stuff – as well as the domestic and import CDs. (To display my Apple fanboy-ism, I also own a Newton MessagePad – haha.)

    ANYWAY – what do the Beatles have going on for them right now??

    The Mirage in Las Vegas has their show – “LOVE”

    NOW – what’s more Valentine’s Day-themed than LOVE?!?!

    Forget the Yellow Submarine iPod – you’ll see a “LOVE” branded iPod first, I’m guessing.

    …Of course, that’s just MY opinion, I could be wrong.

  3. Politico says:

    Been saying this for 5 years that distribution will change because of iTS. Artists, both new and established, will one day bypass the music old guard and sell via iTS directly to their audience. A new artist will do better selling fewer tracks without the “promotional” efforts of the music suits. Established artists will benefit even more as will we, the consumers/fans.

  4. john says:

    THE BEATLES STARTED APPLE RECORDS, BECAUSE THEY WERE TIRED OF WORKING WITH RECORD COMPANIES AND WANTED TO THINK DIFFERENT. APPLE WILL CARRY OUT THE ORGINAL VISION INTENDED FOR APPLE RECORDS.

  5. droughtquake says:

    How about a Flower Power iPod?

  6. koltonnaples says:

    That is so cool that the Apple Corps got all the Apple things and do you know when the new macs are coming out i hope they got Mac OS X 10.5 in it can you tell me when the New Mac’s,Apples if you like to call it are coming out

    Can you tell me when PLEASE i got a ( IBOOK G4 ) The os x is very old it dose not have intal in it i need windos for my work

  7. Randy says:

    Two years ago I told my friend Dave Putman to watch for Apple to open a Studio and produce the music first hand. The writting is on the wall

  8. Chip says:

    The first artist signed by Apple Records was James Taylor.

    In a recent interview, Taylor (who won the Grammy for best pop album as recently as 1999) said that he currently is not signed to any label, that he travels all the time because “he never made a penny signed to a label,” and that he’s looking at other ways to distribute his music.

    It would be great if Taylor were the first signed to the new Apple.

  9. sfenton83 says:

    This makes since. I’m noticing an increasing trend among my own age group that the radio is being used less and less to find “new” artists. None of my close friends use it. They find stuff through myspace and pandora or blogs. So, really the RIAA and it’s radio/chart fucking don’t do them any good in my case. I think this is where music is headed, and if apple does this their going to be (once again) ahead of everyone else in the eye of the consumer.

  10. doctashock says:

    How convinient that Radiohead’s contract with Capitol ended last year. There’s already been huge speculation as to whether or not a band of their stature would be the ones to start hammering nails in the current model of music distribution by independently releasing their insanely anticipated next album.

  11. […] there are distractions. Apple Recon is reporting some big possibilities on the horizon for Apple and iTunes, namely the possibility of preloading music on new iPods at the retail stores and the potential for […]

  12. marcys says:

    A few months ago I heard that Paul McCartney said he didn’t want to sell Beatles stuff, or his, via iTunes, because they were ruining the “integrity” of albums by allowing people to buy one song at a time. As if Nike doesn’t ruin any “integrity.”

  13. Bob says:

    Sorry to be tossing cold water, but I think this is totally ridiculous.

    To begin with, I don’t see any indication that Apple Inc. wants to go into the business of producing artists selling albums as a label.

    Just because they sell audio devices doesn’t indicate that they want to go into business as a record company. I’ve worked in the music business all my life as a studio musician, and have worked for record labels for 25 years, and I can say firsthand that it’s not something you do as a sideline.

    It would be like Wal-Mart or Amazon starting up a record label; it’s just not going to happen. Besides, who would want it to?

    I want Apple to focus on what it does well: making great hardware, producing excellent software, coming out with innovative hardware that ties the media experience together–I personally have no desire to see them build cars (but the iPod goes in a car–why not build cars??), build houses (but Macs go in houses–why don’t they go into the home construction business??), or anything else that dilutes their strengths. And as a stockholder (I have a few shares, nothing big), the LAST thing I would be happy about is their diving into the quagmire of the record label industry!

    By the way, I’m a HUGE Apple fan; I love the company, I love their products, I can’t wait to get an iPhone, have already ordered an ATV and the new Airport Extreme… so it’s not that i don’t love Apple.

    Apple Inc. as a record label? Not a chance!

  14. Jason says:

    Good thoughts Bob. I agree, wholeheartedly.

    I can’t wait to put my order in for my iHouse and iCar…

  15. spatulated says:

    If this all happens, i wil be so so so so happy. I can only hope your even half right.

  16. Splitdog says:

    iThis and iThat…. a ‘me first’ generation for sure!

  17. Jonh says:

    Starting a label is ridiculous. Buying a label is a different proposition. EMI goes from weakness to weakness – boy, I bet they wish they had accepted the offer made last December. Steve already owns Pixar – what’s different about owning a label? Especially a label with The Beatles on it. Put in smart people to run it, guys who understand music not biscuits, get into some artist development instead of exploitation, and build a 21C music business. Something that interacts with iTunes, GarageBand, MySpace, YouTube. And one that treats artists with honesty and trust- they’d be beating at the door to get signed. That doesn’t seem too far-fetched an idea.

  18. […] Here is an interesting article that was recently posted on Apple Recon. After all the hoo-haa regarding Steve Jobs’ propostion for DRM free music and the […]

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  24. Bessie says:

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  25. U2 album says:

    U2 No Line On The Horizon Album Preview…

    No Line on the Horizon is the twelfth studio disc by Irish rock group U2, released on 27 February 2009. The No Line on the Horizon is U2’s first since 2004, the longest gap between studio albums in the band’s career. The material was originally inten…

  26. Jose Jensen says:

    This is a good approach to what, for some, may be a controversial topic. Very well though out post. – I am dying from the treatment of too many physicians. – Alexander the Great

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