Apple-Eminem court fight reveals intriguing numbers

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Fans of titanic battles between institutions run by rich people with huge egos were disappointed today to find out that the long-simmering lawsuit between Apple and Eminem over money from iTunes sales was settled out of court today. But fans of the sunshine effect court cases can have were rewarded by the revelation of a few numbers before the deal was made.

Technically, the battle was between Apple and Eight Mile Style, the publisher of Eminem's music, an LLC run by Eminem that controls the copyrights to his music. What's interesting is that Eight Mile Style was suing not just Apple but the record label that actually distributes Eminem's music, Aftermath Entertainment, which is ultimately a subsidiary of Universal Music Group. UMG is the entity that Apple dealt with when inking a deal to sell Eminem's music through the iTunes store, and Eight Mile Style essentially claimed that UMG didn't have the right to do so, and that a new contract would be needed.

The fun numbers are these: For every Eminem song sold on iTunes, Aftermath Entertainment gets 70 cents, and Eight Mile Style gets 9.1 cents. (A quick look at the store shows that Eminem songs generally go for $1.29; presumably the rest goes to Apple?) It certainly seems like a great deal for the record companies, especially when you consider that much of Eminem's catalog came out before the iTunes Store existed; in other words, UMG is managing to get 70 cents a song on assets that it already owned, and for which it didn't really do much extra work.

Another odd outcome is one that will presumably vanish under the veil of out-of-court secrecy: Apple did a deal with Eight Mile Style, not with UMG. I'm guessing Apple tends to deal with the labels, not the artists themselves. Will this open the floodgates to artists who want to interact with the iTunes Store -- their biggest retailer -- directly?

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