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Apple to secure licensing for iRadio this week, report says

Apple is set to sign a licensing agreement with Universal Music Group this week, hastening the launch of its iRadio streaming service.

Apple is set to sign a licensing agreement with Universal Music Group this week, so its rumoured iRadio service can stream tunes from the label's catalogue, sources close to the matter told The Verge. And Warner Music is said to be next in line.

There is one niggle. Sony Music Entertainment -- home to Alicia Keys, Michael Jackson and Paul Simon, among others -- is dragging its feet, with talks said to be "not as far along towards reaching a deal". But two out of three isn't bad, right?

Universal is the biggest of the major labels, so if Apple can secure deals with it and Warner, I think Sony will follow suit.

Apple has had to soften its usually strict deal-breaking skills as well. According to the New York Post last month, the Cupertino company initially offered to pay 6 cents for every 100 songs streamed, which is about half what rival service Pandora pays. Unsurprisingly, the labels weren't keen on that, so now Apple will pay rates nearly "neck and neck" with Pandora's, according to The Verge's sources.

iRadio (or whatever it ends up being called) is said to boast more on-demand features than Pandora. Pandora has 200 million users, which is about half as many as iTunes.

Meanwhile, Twitter has gobbled up music discovery tool We Are Hunted, and is said to be launching its own music service any day now, so competition for streaming dollars will be fierce. Of course Spotify is still going strong thanks to its tie-up with Facebook. The Spotify and iTunes libraries now include music from the GTAgames, so you can get your car-jacking fix while you wait for GTA 5.

Are you looking forward to an Apple streaming service? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook page.