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Apple confirms move to 90-second iTunes samples

Apple initially hoped to announce 90-second samples in September, but licensing issues pushed the announcement back.

This is the note from Apple notifying music labels that it will boost the length of song samples.

Longer song samples are finally on their way to iTunes.

An Apple spokesman confirmed for CNET this evening a report by Symphonic Distribution, a digital music distributor, that iTunes would soon be extending the length of song samples from 30 seconds to 90 seconds for songs that are at least two-and-a-half minutes in length. Shorter songs would continue to offer the 30-second sample.

Apple notified the top music labels and other business partners in the music industry about the change today.

The samples are, of course, the snippets of music that Apple offers to iTunes users so they can determine whether they want a song or not. CNET was first to report on August 30 that Apple planned to increase the length of samples and would roll it out during the company's press event in San Francisco on September 1.

The day after CNET's report appeared, however, the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) informed Apple that it had not negotiated for the proper licenses with music publishers and didn't have the right to offer longer samples. The longer samples were shelved temporarily. Since then, Apple has spoken with various groups, including the Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), one of the performing-rights organizations that collects royalties on behalf of songwriters and music publishers. BMI confirmed in September that it was in negotiations with Apple over the samples.

Some of the discussions with rights holders may still be ongoing, according to music industry sources. But Apple apparently feels they are close enough to a final deal to inform their partners at the labels.

Representatives from the NMPA and BMI were not immediately available.

Song samples play an important role in the buying process, according to researchers at Robert Morris University. In a report released last year, professor Min Lu and assistant professor Yanbin Tu reported that consumers are more likely to buy songs if allowed to sample the music for about 60 seconds and if provided access to a "high-quality" version of the music.

A chart created by researchers from Robert Morris University shows top ways consumers discover music.The first category is recommendations from friends. Robert Morris University