Apple is in discussion with major labels with a view to offering an "all you can eat" access model to music through iTunes.
As reported by the Financial Times, the model involves giving customers free access to the complete iTunes music catalogue in exchange for paying a premium price for iPods and iPhones.
Nokia announced a similar initiative with Universal Music last December. The plan could pour some money into record label coffers while driving demand for Apple's media players.
Apple won't comment on rumour or speculation, but the talks at present are characterised as hinging on just how much cash the company will offer labels in exchange for access to the catalogue. Nokia offers $80 per device to the labels, but Apple is offering only $20 at this point in negotiations.
Apple is also examining a subscription model, the report claims.
These reports follow statements by U2 manager Paul McGuinness at music industry conference, Midem, earlier this year. Speaking during a keynote session, McGuinness predicted Apple would introduce wireless music subscription services at some point.
"Personally I expect that Apple will before too long reveal a wireless iPod that connects to an iTunes "all of the music, wherever you are" subscription service. I would like it to succeed, if the content is fairly paid for. "Access" is what people will be paying for in the future, not the "ownership" of digital copies of pieces of music," McGuiness said.
Music labels are moving fast to embrace new business plans based on access (subscription services, for example) rather than ownership (a la carte downloads) of tracks.