Artists defies Sony to put music on iTunes

Artists signed to Sony in Japan are rebelling against their label's decision not to make their music available through iTunes Music Store.

At least one contacted Apple directly in order to get their tunes onto the downloads service, which after just a few days of operating became the largest in the country, and a musicians' management agency has said it is interested in talking to Apple in defiance of the label.

Among the rebels is rock musician Motoharu Sano.

It is an individual's freedom where that person chooses to listen to music,' he told business newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun. 'I want to deliver my music wherever my listeners are.'

Talks between Sony and Apple are believed to be continuing, with topics believed to include Apple's closed DRM system. Sony is thought to have asked iTunes to provide downloads in its own ATRAC format that is compatible with its Network Walkman range of portable players, reports PC Pro.

According to Business Week, in just four days, customers downloaded 1 million songs - the fastest pace for the service's launch in any of the 20 nations it's become available, including the U.S. Most songs cost 150 yen (US$1.35; euro1) to download, and only 10 percent cost 200 yen (US$1.80; euro1.40).

But Sony Corp.'s music division has not signed up to join Apple's service.

The two companies have emerged as major rivals in the portable music player business. Apple's iPod music player, which stores music on a hard drive, has hurt Sony, which its own Network Walkman, some of which have hard drives.

Sony Music Entertainment and Apple say they're in talks but there's been no agreement.

But wayward artists could just start averting the issue and opt to offer their music to iTunes.

Sony Music Entertainment remains separate from Sony-BMG. The Japanese label was the only part of Sony Music not to be included in the two major labels' 2004 merger.

Pre-merger, Sony has licensed content to Apple for all the other territories in which ITMS operates. In Japan, however, Sony is believed to see Apple as more of a threat than an opportunity, not only to its own music download service but also to its PlayStation Portable and Walkman hardware business.

Indeed, at the ITMS Japan launch, Apple CEO Steve Jobs compared the iPod's sales performance directly to the PSP's.

According to AP, not only Sony, but Victor Entertainment artists are absent from ITMS Japan. Both companies confirmed they are still talking to Apple, informs the Register.

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