European Union regulators are investigating Apple’s deals struck with music labels, a new report claims.
According to the Financial Times, a selection of Europe-operating music companies have received questionnaires requesting details on deals with the California-based tech giant.
This news come off the back of rumours that Apple is planning to launch a music streaming service this summer.
It would be developed in partnership with Beats, an audio company purchased by Apple last year for $3 billion (£1.79bn at the time).
The report claims that
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union, and deals with the organisation’s day-to-day business, as well as proposing legilsation, implementing decisions, and upholding EU treaties.
Fortunately for Apple, the investigation is reportedly only exploratory at this stage, and a formal antitrust probe has not yet been instigated.
Related: Why musicians hate Spotify
The investigation is alleged to be the result of concerns that Apple might use its industry power to persuade music labels to stop supporting free music streaming.
The current market leader is Spotify, which has long been a proponent of free, ad-based streaming. It should be noted that Spotify also offers a premium, ad-free subscription tier.
Many music artists and labels aren’t so keen on the idea however, most notably Taylor Swift. The US pop star famously pulled her music off Spotify late last year due to disagreements over the service’s business model.
If music labels decided to pull out of the free streaming market en masse, it would seriously impact Spotify’s bottom line, and force the service to rethink its monetisation strategy.
Industry rival Tidal, now owned by Jay Z, hopes to disrupt the market by offering music artists an equity share in the business, and has seen backing from many top musicians, including Madonna, Rihanna, and Kanye West.
It’s worth noting that Apple currently has no official public plans to launch a streaming service.