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Apple in talks over iTunes in the cloud

Apple is in talks with the music industry's biggest players over a new cloud-based music subscription service according to multiple insider sources.

Bloomberg claims it has spoken to three people 'with knowledge of the plans', two of whom say that an agreement could be inked by the middle of the year.

Apple has recently spent a bundle on building and equipping a massive new data centre, and providing a limitless, subscription-based streaming and downloading service is one explanation for the investment.

The anonymous moles say Apple is currently schmoozing execs from music's gang of four, Universal, Sony, Warner and EMI, which between them hold the publishing rights for just about every band and artist on the planet.

It's widely suspected that the music industry is finally waking up to new models for music distribution and getting into bed with the company which shifts more digital tracks than any other on earth first would seem like a smart move.

The deal would see a permanent cloud-based back-up of a subscriber's entire iTunes library, accessible from anywhere with a suitable connection, and quite possibly on any device, including those not created by Apple.

Although margins on digital downloads are pretty slim for recording industry giants, there's a growing momentum towards a radio-type model for music distribution where listening to music is to all intents and purposes free, and the industry will make money from adverts, concert ticket sales, value-added physical media and other peripherals like T-shirts and branded clothing.

Outfits like Spotify have shown that there's still a buck to be turned by giving music away for nowt and others are sure to follow.