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Apple in talks to bring lyrics to iTunes

A proposed deal between Apple and digital media company Gracenote could soon see the iPod maker serve up song lyrics through its ubiquitous iTunes Store.

The move would be part of a larger industry-backed push to stifle proliferation of unauthorized websites that currently dominate the market, often offering inaccurate lyrics and never compensating artists for their work.

Gracenote and Yahoo! kicked-off the effort earlier this week in announcing a licensing deal allowing Yahoo! Music to offer legal, licensed song lyrics from hundreds of thousands of songs to its customers. Some feature artists include U2, Elvis and The Beatles.

In a deal with music publishers last summer, Gracenote gain the rights to distribute lyrics from nearly 100 music publishers, including the top five: BMG Music Publishing, EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner/Chappell Music, and dozens of prominent independent publishers.

“Song lyrics are continually among the top 10 searches performed on major search engines, though the results often provide consumers a frustrating experience filled with inconsistent and incomplete lyrics, and annoying pop-ups,” said Craig Palmer, president and chief executive officer of Gracenote.

In speaking to Reuters, Palmer revealed his firm is in discussions with various other music partners, such as Apple's iTunes. "We wouldn't be in the business to launch just one service, so stay tuned," he said.

The arrival of lyrics on iTunes could present exciting opportunities for Apple, which already offers high-quality album artwork downloads to its customers. A deal between Gracenote and Apple would almost certainly pave the way for lyric downloads to digital music players, allowing iPod users to sing along to their favorite tunes. Karaoke products and possibilities also exist.

In speaking to Reuters, Palmer said licensing lyrics should boost worldwide music publishing revenues, estimated at about $4 billion annually, by as much as $100 million annually within the next 10 years.