Apple's acquisition of Lala last year foreshadowed a plan to add some sort of music streaming service to iTunes. Exactly how that will come about still remains under wraps, but a number of news outlets (including Billboard) have uncovered nuggets of information based on conversations Apple is having with record labels.

A report in CNET says Apple is briefing labels on a free music streaming service that will let users upload purchased music to an online locker of sorts and stream it from any Web-connected device, a scenario outlined a day earlier by MP3Tunes' Michael Roberson at TechCrunch. A slightly different take in The Wall Street Journal says Apple wants to make all iTunes sales virtual, allowing for the ability to add buy buttons to various Web sites and online music services so users can buy music without having to download and install the iTunes software.

According to various label sources contacted by Billboard, the nature of these talks are extremely preliminary. Apple representatives reached out to the majors last week by phone to discuss for the first time its initial streaming ideas. Until then, there had been no communication about what the acquisition of Lala would hold for the iTunes service.

While in theory the labels have expressed interest in Apple's plans, they are awaiting details before signing off fully, which will likely involve in-person meetings, something not expected for another week or two. Those details will determine how exactly all this plays out.

Billboard polled the major record labels earlier this year to determine how they would react to the various scenarios discussed, and found that, while all were open to a streaming model, some tension over licensing is likely. The primary concern: How music is accessed by mobile devices. Labels already charge subscription services, like Rhapsody, higher rates for songs streamed via iPhone apps than when streamed from a computer, as they view such activity as potentially cannibalizing download sales.

Since the idea currently on the table involved streaming only music that has already been purchased in iTunes, there's less of a concern for cannibalization. But pricing may come into play. Lala for instance sold streaming-only songs for 10-cents, which label sources bluntly said they would not allow to be accessed from mobile phones without some additional financial consideration.

"Not with our music they won't," said one major label digital music exec.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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