Just days before the launch of iTunes Radio in 2013, Apple was still trying to make last-minute deals with record labels to get the service off the ground. That happened, of course, but put into question whether the service would be ready to go in time for Apple's annual developers conference. Now the same thing is said to be happening in Apple's effort to revamp its streaming music services in time for its 2015 Worldwide Developer Conference, which is a little more than a month away. Citing sources, Billboard reports that Apple is having troubles getting deals signed with record labels, and that getting everything lined up in time "is going down to the wire."
It's unclear how many of the labels are holding up the process; last time around it was Sony Music, which was a lone holdout. A source tells The Verge that Apple has not yet signed a deal with Universal Music Group. On Universal's labels are Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, Katy Perry, and countless others.
This same thing happened two years ago
Apple's been aggressively trying to bargain for firmer footing against entrenched streaming music rivals. As The Verge exclusively reported yesterday, the company has been pushing music labels to end deals with services like Spotify that offer free, ad-supported music when contracts come up for renewal. The move would give Apple's own premium music streaming service a better chance at snatching subscribers away from long-existing services like Rdio and Spotify. At the same time, Apple's bargaining efforts have already managed to attract the attention of both the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission over whether what Apple is doing is fair and square.
In the case of iTunes Radio, which debuted at WWDC two years ago, Apple didn't have all the labels on board until Friday, the week before the show. Apple was able to show the service off at the June keynote, but it didn't make its way into the hands of consumers until three months later with the launch of iOS 7. The same thing is expected here, as part of a relaunch of the Beats music service, which Apple acquired for $3 billion last year. In the meantime, there have already been some hints of Apple trying to get its ducks in a row for a new music experience. An upcoming version of iOS that's already been in developers' hands sports a revamped Music app. That could just be setting the stage for an integrated version of Beats (which is currently a stand-alone app), or just Apple trying to clean house before pushing something more compelling out the door later this year.
Apple's WWDC kicks off June 8th, and is once again being held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Besides the music app, the company is also expected to show off a new version of the Apple TV, iOS, OS X, and a new developer kit for the Apple Watch.
Update May 5th, 4:03PM ET: Added details about Universal not having signed a deal yet. Also, 9to5Mac is reporting that the streaming service is set to actually launch at WWDC inside of iOS 8.4 versus as part of the next major iOS release, as well as in iTunes 12.2. Interestingly, the report also claims Apple is attempting to work in unlimited skips for iTunes Radio into its new paid service. Right now, it's limited to six skips per hour, though Apple trims out the ads if you're a paying subscriber of its $24.99-a-year iTunes Match service.