BBC's iPlayer is one of its greatest moves and is very popular in the UK. The iPlayer is great for catching up on TV and radio shows, but the BBC, apparently, wants to go beyond that and build a similar service for music, specifically, all of the music recordings it has in its archives.The big problem, as always with online music, is with licensing. As any streaming service will tell you, securing the rights to stream millions of songs and then having to pay huge royalties for it is the hardest part of running the service and has ruined many of them.
Even the most popular, like Spotify, are not profitable and are barely getting by. But The Telegraph says the BBC is talking to other online streaming and music services, such as Spotify, Deezer and Apple's iTunes precisely to simplify the licensing issues.
That may seem strange to anyone with some idea of how these deals work. Spotify, Deezer or even iTunes can't re-license the music they stream or offer for sale. In fact, they can't even transfer the deal to another player, say if the company is sold.
So they couldn't help the BBC with the licenses needed. However, there is a catch. Music licensing is complicated business and you can't just go to one company and pay for the right to stream one song.
That's because you have to pay for the recording, i.e. the actual piece of music, but you also have to pay for the composition to a different set of groups.
The BBC is in a unique position since it owns all of its recordings, so it technically doesn't have to pay anyone for those. However, the rights to those recordings may vary from artist to artist depending on their contracts with their record labels. And the BBC would still have to pay the songwriters, which is far from being straightforward.
This is why the report is confusing, The Telegraph says the BBC is ready to roll out the new service, which will be free in the UK, by the end of the year or in early 2013. Paid services barely make ends meet, it's hard to see how the BBC could work and how they would convince the rights holders to get involved.