Apple may soon be forced to bow to the pressure to raise iTunes prices.

Record labels have been grumbling at Apple's refusal to change its current price structure. They have wanted more flexibility on price, claiming that digital music sales aren't sufficiently compensating for loss of sales at retail.

Labels are also annoyed at what they perceive as Apple's position to dictate on price.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has castigated these companies, accusing some of "greed" and voicing concerns that the still fledgling online music market won't be able to support purported price increases.

However, EMI Music CEO Alain Levy last night said: "We are having discussions which make us believe it will happen in the next 12 months," according to the Wall Street Journal.

Levy expects Apple will succumb to the pressure, and that prices will increase next year.

The major labels and Apple are scheduled to renegotiate the iTunes pricing deal in spring 2006.

"There is a common understanding that we will have to come to a variable pricing structure. The issue is when. There is a case for superstars to have a higher price," Levy said.

As merger rumours intensify, Levy's desires seem closely aligned to those of Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfam. Speaking in September, Bronfam said: "There's no content in the world that has doesn't have some price flexibility. Not all songs are created equal. Not all albums are created equal."

He stressed that he wants to be able to charge more for some songs (presumably the ones music lovers want) and less for others. He warned: "iTunes needs our music as much as we need iTunes."