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The world's five biggest music labels have successfully forced Apple to increase the prices it charges for songs on the online iTunes Music Store.

As we reported back in April, the major labels have been engaged in negotiations with the Mac maker in a bid to persuade it to put up prices.

According to a New York Post report today, citing sources close to the talks, all five have succeeded.

The sources claim Apple has now signed agreements with EMI, Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG), Sony, Universal and Warner that will see prices on some songs rise from 99c to $1.25, an increase of over 26 per cent.

Still, that's better than the $2.99 price point some labels had been pushing Apple to introduce.

Album prices are going up too. Many are likely to continue to be offered for $9.99, but some are appearing in the ITMS for $16.99, a rise of 70 per cent.

As one music industry source told The Register: "That will really ingratiate the public and discourage piracy, won't it?"

Apple does appear to have had it way in other areas, however. The NYP's sources reckon the company did not agree to label demands that some artists' songs only be sold in album batches and not as individual tracks.

In the past, some acts, most notably Radiohead and Metallica, have said they will not allow their songs to be offered individually. But that clearly runs against what many music consumers want: the ability to pick and choose the songs they want and not be stuck with all or nothing album offers. The old days of buying an entire album for one song are hopefully behind us.

We'd say it's about time the music industry started thinking that way too. There will always remain a place for albums - CDs too - but artists and labels have to start thinking 'outside the disc' if they're to reach a new generation of consumers now empowered to buy exactly what they want.

Other services may face similar demands, but there does seem to be a particular focus on Apple. Having established the market for legal downloads, Apple now seems to be facing a music industry paranoid about the power that success might bring the Mac maker. ®

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