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Apple is on the verge of rolling out its own music streaming service, a move that could shake up the fast-growing Internet radio market.

Apple Inc. has signed deals with two major music labels for the rights to stream their songs but is still negotiating with a third music label, which could delay Apple's plans to announce the iRadio service next week at the company's developers conference.

Apple is on the verge of rolling out its own music streaming service, a move that could shake up the fast-growing Internet radio market

Apple is on the verge of rolling out its own music streaming service, a move that could shake up the fast-growing Internet radio market

When Apple finally does launch its streaming service, it will be a relative latecomer, following rivals such as Pandora, Radio, Google, Spotify and even Microsoft. But with Apple's position as the world's largest music retailer, with the iTunes store available in 119 countries, analysts say it would be a mistake to underestimate the impact its service could have.

"There are plenty of reasons for Apple to want to play here," said James McQuivey, a Forrester Research analyst. "I'm sure they're thinking it would be a real shame to give up the digital music business that they helped define." Apple's new music service is expected to be a free, ad-based streaming service that uses listeners' preferences to tailor music selections, similar to Pandora.

"There are plenty of reasons for Apple to want to play here,"

"There are plenty of reasons for Apple to want to play here"

The growing popularity of streaming music services points to a fundamental, if gradual, shift in the way consumers listen to songs. Such services generated 15% of the recording industry's revenue in 2012, up from 3% in 2007, according to the Recording Industry Assn. of America.

Apple continues to dominate the sales of downloaded music through its iTunes store. But as gadgets such as smartphones and tablets become more powerful, and wireless networks become faster, consumers are increasingly comfortable using ad-based streaming services, and in some cases paying a subscription.

Apple continues to dominate the sales of downloaded music through its iTunes store

Apple continues to dominate the sales of downloaded music through its iTunes store

On Monday, The Times confirmed the status of Apple's negotiations, some of which had been reported by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Warner Music Group became the first major label to sign a publishing and music licensing deal with Apple for an Internet radio service, according to several people with knowledge of the situation.

Universal Music has granted a music license to Apple, but is still negotiating terms for a deal with its publishing arm, according to people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity because contract talks are confidential.

The biggest holdout is Sony Music Entertainment and its publishing arm, Sony/ATV, the music publishing company co-owned by the estate of Michael Jackson and Sony Corp.

Apple's iRadio may represent a way to introduce music aficionados to new songs and artists they might like, based upon what they have already bought through the iTunes store

Apple's iRadio may represent a way to introduce music aficionados to new songs and artists they might like, based upon what they have already bought through the iTunes store

Apple and music label spokespeople declined to comment. Apple has been in discussions with the labels for quite some time, as it seeks to expand its music offerings beyond digital song downloads and its iCIoud service, which provides users access to their music library and other types of content from any Internet-connected device.

In the two deals struck so far, Apple apparently has offered to pay more than Pandora for the music streams, provide a share of the revenue and pay an advance, according to sources. Apple's streaming offering also addresses one of the perceived shortcomings of digital services, which are great at selling the consumer songs that they have searched for but less deft at providing recommendations and introducing new music.

Apple's iRadio may represent a way to introduce music aficionados to new songs and artists they might like, based upon what they have already bought through the iTunes store. Apple has amassed a tremendous amount of information about people's listening preferences, so it potentially could draw from this information to launch an Internet radio offering that is tailored to individual tastes.

Analysts do not expect that a streaming service will necessarily be a big money maker for Apple. Instead, the company simply needs to create a compelling experience that will enhance the experience of current users of its devices. "I don't think Apple Is going to do anything groundbreaking," said Trip Chowdhry, the managing director of equity research at Global Equities Research. "There are just certain experiences on the platform that they need to own, like maps, which are important to consumers. It's one more thing to keep people on the Apple platform."

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