Discussions between Apple and Universal look set to take an ugly twist, following comments made by the head of the latter firm's parent company, Vivendi.

"The split between Apple and (music) producers is indecent ... Our contracts give too good a share to Apple," Vivendi chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy told reporters yesterday.

Vivendi owns Universal Music, which recently refused to agree a long-term deal with Apple for distributing its music through iTunes.

Universal is currently the world's largest major label with an approximate 40 per cent market share of the global music market.

The company presently takes the lion's share of iTunes sales costs - €0.70 of the €0.99 purchase cost of tunes sold through the service.

For the label, the critical issue is that of flexible pricing. Levy told reporters he wants to be able to charge more for a new track, and less for an old catalogue song.

"We should have a differentiated price system," he said.

With an eye to shareholder value, the Vivendi chief executive also said: "We are in a phase during which many different actors are talking to each other. We are trying to put in place several projects to ensure that music is better remunerated. We are not just talking to Apple," he said, according to Reuters.