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Acclaimed reissue label Numero Group 'declined' invite to Apple's iCloud

June 9, 2011 |  6:12 am

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There have been lots of figures thrown around in the stories relating to Apple's iCloud service, yet none are sitting right with Chicago's famed reissue label the Numero Group, the small revival house that in 2010 released a well-received boxed set dedicated to litte-known soul hero Syl Johnson and specializes in reissue compilations of obscure soul, folk and funk music of the '70s. Label co-founder Rob Sevier said Tuesday that as of now the company was not going to make its catalog available for iCloud's scan-and-match service, a concept the label cautioned as a "great risk" in a post on its site.

"What they are offering to do is analogous to the replacement of a counterfeit painting with an original painting," Sevier said in a follow-up email.

At issue is Apple's intention to this fall launch an online storage service dubbed iCloud. A free version will give a user 5 gigabytes of storage, and also house any songs or albums purchased via the iTunes store. Yet for an annual fee of $24.99, which Apple will split with record labels and publishers, Apple will host high-quality audio files of songs on its servers, saving customers the task of uploading each song individually.

The iCloud will not differentiate between purchased songs and those acquired via peer-to-peer networks, and Sevier said Numero is concerned about the long-term effects of such a service for the industry. For instance, one apprehension was that if the company made its catalog available to iCloud, then those who obtained the label's releases via file-sharing networks could upload them and potentially see them replaced with higher-quality versions.

Apple has stated that "all the music iTunes matches plays back at 256-Kbps iTunes Plus quality -- even if your original copy was of lower quality." The company did not respond to requests for comment.

"We expect to take flak from people who really just want the convenience," Sevier said. "And this is a very convenient and technologically impressive set-up. Imagine: instead of having an MP3 on every hard-drive in the world, we have an MP3 basically in one place, accessible by everyone in the world at their whim. It does appear that the future of data is in these cloud formations. However, this can't be at the disservice to the creators of intellectual property."

Numero's statement leaves room for a future change of heart, and fans of the company, one that relies on expensive and extensively-researched packages, can still upload Numero content one-by-one to the iCloud. It will just be a more time-consuming endeavor. 

To be clear, Sevier said the company's dealings with Apple have been pleasant, and many questions may be answered before the service is launched. Additionally, the company did stress in its post that "it’s only been one day since the announcement of Apple’s new product, iCloud, and it’s hard to speculate exactly what it will mean for a record label like ours." 

Sevier said he is sensitive to customers who want a back-up of the product, and noted those who buy the CD essentially have one. The iCloud will still require data management on the part of the user, as even those who pay $24.99 will have to download the song to their devices or computers. Apple has not yet unveiled any music streaming ambitions. 

However, Numero's statement contended that any income derived from the iCloud "will very likely not be enough." An earlier Times story reported that the aggreements "call for Apple to share 70% of any revenue from iCloud's music service with record labels, as well as 12% with music publishers holding the songwriting rights." 

"We represent a host of copyright holders," Sevier said. "Some are just small families with only a handful of copyrights, and we're their only life-line into this world. We have to take a more responsible view."

The label's post argued that the agreements between Apple have green-lighted a service that will do little more than pay "top executives" at major labels. Numero described the amount to be given to publishers and copyright holders as a "pittance."

The free edition of the iCloud acts in a similar way to Amazon's Cloud Player, and will back up any music purchased from the digital outlet, including, of course, those from Numero. Sevier praised the free service, saying it encourages non-CD-buying fans to purchase music, as it instantly creates a back-up accessible via multiple devices.

Sevier is concerned about upsetting fans, and said, "We want to raise some of these questions. We want people to understand it's not about trying to take away.

"We don't believe we have the answers to all these questions, but the reason for making a public statement is that we don't want other labels and artists to simply 'opt in' without considering some of these same concerns," he said.

ALSO:

Apple's iCloud aims to 'demote the PC'

Major labels, music publishers lining up behind Apple's iCloud

Unsung heroes: Ex-tribute artist Charles Bradley finds his own voice

-- Todd Martens

Image: Steve Jobs at Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco announcing the iCloud. Credit: Reuters

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